Five words that prove Folau is clueless

"I have the fight of my life on my hands."

That is what multi-millionaire sportsman Israel Folau told people yesterday as he asked them to donate $3 million to fund his legal tantrum against Rugby Australia.

Like so many wayward Wallaby passes over the years, the sickening irony of Folau's words flew right over his head.

Within hours, his GoFundMe post had raised more money than any other cause on the site, breezing past requests from people who were actually fighting for their lives.

One of them was Jensen, 9, who has a tumour in his liver. It's been diagnosed as high risk hepatoblastoma, an incredibly rare form of cancer.

Jensen's parents had to significantly scale back their business to care for him full-time, and his aunt is asking people to help them cover the family's medical bills and basic living expenses.

Another was Mel, 36, who's suffering from an aggressive brain tumour. After two years of treatment, including numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and clinical trials, she has been left with one last resort, a drug called Avastin.

She needs the treatment once every fortnight, and each dose costs $7000.

The next-highest fundraising total after Folau's belonged to Piper, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma three weeks before her first birthday. She had tiny tumours on her liver, stomach, abdomen and chest cavity.

Yesterday Piper's family announced the tragic news that she had died.

Jensen's post asked Australians for $30,000, Mel's $50,000, and Piper's $100,000. Israel Folau wants $3 million, for what he so casually calls "the fight of my life".

That would be the same Israel Folau who has spent his entire adult life being paid millions of dollars to throw and kick a ball, first by the NRL, then the AFL, then rugby union.

Forget that $10 you were going to give a desperately sick kid - donate it to him instead.

The top six fundraising causes on GoFundMe. Israel Folau's plea for cash quickly blew past other, worthier causes. Picture: GoFundMe
The top six fundraising causes on GoFundMe. Israel Folau's plea for cash quickly blew past other, worthier causes. Picture: GoFundMe

A few people were quick to note the juxtaposition, foremost among them Folau's former Wallabies teammate Drew Mitchell.

"You are in a fight that you chose to be in after you broke the terms of your contract. The kids below are in a fight they never wanted to be in and yet you think you deserve donations more than they do? It's no longer about religion, it's about you and your greed," Mitchell said, displaying the sort of basic moral clarity Folau claims to possess in spades.

Other Wallabies have spoken out against him as well, including Will Genia, Bernard Foley and the team's captain Michael Hooper.

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle, who pushed for Folau's sacking was also critical of Folau's choice to use the fundraising platform.

"From our perspective that's a place where sick children get support. It's certainly not a strategy that we would've thought was appropriate," she said.

Folau was asked about their criticism when he appeared on 2GB radio yesterday, and once again displayed a staggering lack of self-awareness.

"It was quite the shock to me. Whether or not that was really what they meant, I don't take any of those things personal. I have no harsh feelings towards them," Folau told Alan Jones.

"If I do carry hate or judgmental feelings towards them, I'm actually going against the very thing that I actually believe in and what my faith speaks about."

OK, so it's bad to have hateful or judgmental feelings towards other human beings. Got it. I have just a couple of follow-up questions.

What could be more judgmental than the belief that people deserve to go to hell, to suffer for eternity, because of their sexuality?

What could be more hateful than telling someone the very essence of who they are, something they cannot change, is wrong?

In his plea for money from the public, Folau said that sharing the word of the Bible was "an act of love and compassion". And it certainly can be. It kind of depends which parts of the book you choose to share.

Here is Folau's idea of love and compassion.

Mmm, yes, you can really feel the compassion.
Mmm, yes, you can really feel the compassion.

Please excuse me while I go practise my frugality by buying a luxury yacht.

If Folau's opinions were harmless they wouldn't matter. But they're not harmless, are they? That is why Australia's football codes, rugby union among them, have worked so hard to reduce homophobia in their own communities in recent years.

Young LGBTI people are five times more likely than the rest of the population to attempt suicide. I'm sure you have heard that statistic before. Surely someone has mentioned it to Folau by now.

Does he care? Has he stopped wallowing in self-pity for long enough, at any point, to wonder whether young people's mental health might be more important than his right to pop off the occasional Instagram post telling them how very damned they are?

Which brings me to the last example of Folau's cluelessness, and frankly, that of his cheer squad - the idea that his rights to freedom of speech and religion are under attack.

Yes, Folau does have the right to say horrible, bigoted things. Nobody is stopping him.

If Australia were the sort of country that actually suppressed speech, he would be collecting other people's money from a prison cell.

But freedom of speech does not give Folau the right to a multimillion-dollar rugby contract. It does not shield him from other people's right to call out his hateful comments. And it does not entitle him to falsely play the victim.

When Folau signed his most recent, $5 million contract with Rugby Australia, he agreed not to bring the sport into disrepute. By continuing to post hateful messages, he broke that promise, threatening to cost rugby more fans, sponsors and respect.

He is the only person who should foot the bill for that.

You can donate to Jensen's family here, Mel's family here and Piper's family here. There are plenty of other worthy causes to choose from as well.



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