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Rugby star Israel Folau defiant after ‘anti-gay’ crowdfunding campaign shut down

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Rugby star Israel Folau said his resolve to fight his sacking for homophobic comments had “only been hardened” by criticism as a crowdfunding campaign for his legal fees was shut down on Monday.

Super Rugby’s most prolific try-scorer, who is planning a court battle with former employer Rugby Australia, had raised more than Aus$700,000 (US$486,000) of a Aus$3 million target from more than 7,000 donors.

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But this will now be refunded after his GoFundMe webpage, set up on Friday, was taken down by the platform which said it wouldn’t “tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion”.

Folau’s camp accused GoFundMe of buckling under pressure and lashed out at “a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters”, which it said included his personal website coming under “what we believe was a sustained cyberattack”.

“Since requesting public donations to help him with his legal action against Rugby Australia, Israel and his supporters have come under intense scrutiny in the media,” a Folau spokesperson said in a statement.

“While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve,” a Folau spokesperson said in a statement.

“Thankfully, several organisations have already expressed interest in supporting Israel’s efforts to raise money for his ongoing legal case.”

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GoFundMe Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said the campaign was removed “after a routine period of evaluation”.

“We have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” she added.

“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity.

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“While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.”

Folau, a devout Christian, was fired last month after a Rugby Australia tribunal found him guilty of “high-level” misconduct for posting on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.

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He has taken his case to Australia’s employment watchdog the Fair Work Commission, asserting that he simply posted a message from the Bible.

He is reportedly seeking Aus$10 million, including for lost sponsorship and marketing opportunities.

– ‘No room for homophobia’ –

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Folau’s crowdfunding campaign had attracted criticism, with Australian media noting that he was one of the best-paid players in the world and owns a multi-million dollar property portfolio.

Folau was on a four-year contract worth more than Aus$1.0 million annually when he was sacked. Gay rights advocates launched a handful of other GoFundMe campaigns in response to his fundraiser.

When Aus$500,000 was passed over the weekend, Folau, who has played 73 times for Australia, took to Instagram to thank his contributors, saying he was “humbled and overwhelmed”.

“I have received thousands of messages from supporters who believe discrimination in the workplace is wrong and has no place in Australia or anywhere else,” he said.

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The shutdown of his appeal came as Australia’s most capped netball player lashed out at the sport for failing to sanction Folau’s wife, a New Zealand netball international, for supporting the GoFundMe campaign.

Maria Folau, who plies her trade with Australia’s Adelaide Thunderbirds, flagged his campaign on her Twitter feed.

Netball Australia and the Thunderbirds issued statements saying they were committed to inclusive environments within the sport, but her actions did not breach their social media policies.

Liz Ellis, a former Australian captain, said their stance was “not good enough”.

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“There is no room for homophobia in our game,” she tweeted late Sunday. “Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome.

“As much as I love watching @MariaFolau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband.”


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WATCH: Trump looks on as Turkey’s Erdo?an denies the Armenian Genocide ever occurred

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President Donald Trump looked on as Turkish President Recep Erdo?an denied the Armenian Genocide during a joint press conference at the White House.

Trump allowed Erdo?an's visit despite Turkey's ethnic cleansing of America's Kurdish allies in northern Syria.

Onlookers were shocked that Erdo?an did this in front of the president and multiple Republican senators.

From the White House, Erdogan is ranting about the Armenian Genocide, saying it didn’t happen and that he wants to set up a “history commission.”

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Veteran ex-Trump supporter: ‘Real veterans who remember their oath will support impeachment’

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In an op-ed published in The Times of Israel this Wednesday, an Army veteran who has since renounced his support of President Trump accused the President of being "unpatriotic."

According to David Weisman, "real veterans who remember their oath will support impeachment."

"When I first got into politics, as I have mentioned numerous times, I thought the Republican Party was the party of upholding the Constitution and ethical principles," Wesiman writes. "I took the word of pundits thinking Republicans stood for truth, justice, and the American way. I never questioned their integrity when they condemned President Obama. Why? Because they were religious and it didn’t occur to me they would lie. Years later, if you are aware of my story, I learned that most of the demonizing of President Obama was propaganda. I’ve also learned to read the fine print of the Constitution because there’s more involved than just the right of free speech and the right to bear arms. Lots of nuance to acknowledge."

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WATCH: Trump whines to Turkish president he only takes questions from ‘friendly reporters’

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In a press conference Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, President Donald Trump openly reminded that he only takes questions from people on his side.

"Would you like to pick somebody?" Trump asked Erdo?an after taking a question from the far-right OANN. "A friendly person from Turkey, please. Friendly. Only friendly reporters. There aren’t too many of them around."

Trump has increasingly refused to take questions from reporters who ask him actual questions that he both knows the answer to and will make him look good.

The White House hasn't hosted a "daily press briefing" for 247 days and not at all under the new press secretary, Stephanie Grisham. She has, however, had time to appear on Fox News multiple times to speak for the White House.

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