ANZ Bank condemns Maria Folau in public statement
ISRAEL Folau's star netballer wife has found herself in the firing line of the ANZ bank which has called her employer and issued a public statement condemning New Zealand Silver Ferns national netball player to distance itself from her 'views'.
The bank has approached her employer, New Zealand's Silver Ferns netball team, to condemn her and then issued a public statement distancing itself from her "views".
Maria, who also plays for the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the Suncorp Super Netball league, has made no statement on her husband Israel Folau's quoting of the Bible, his sacking from rugby or his subsequent remarks about gay people and transgender children during a church sermon.
Yet ANZ - the largest sponsor of New Zealand's domestic netball competition - revealed it approached Maria's bosses to complain because the Kiwi athlete had shared a link to the fundraiser of her husband, who is engaged in an unlawful termination claim against Rugby Australia.
"We do not support the views of Silver Fern Maria Folau and have made our views known to her employer Netball NZ," ANZ media manager Stefan Herrick said in a statement.
Last night, ANZ's Australian offices denied the comments were attempting to "pressure" netball bosses and confirmed they would continue to fund the competition.
"We value our partnership with Netball NZ and any suggestion we have tried to pressure them is absolutely incorrect," the spokesman said.
"We will continue to support Netball NZ and the tens of thousands of participants and supporters of the game."
The comments by ANZ followed an attack by retired Netball Australia player Liz Ellis who complained that Maria was engaging in "homophobia" by sharing her husband's fundraising link.
"There is no room for homophobia in our game … anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome," Ellis said.
"As much as I love watching Maria Folau play netball, I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband."
Both Netball NZ and Netball South Australia stood by their player and rejected claims that sharing the post was an endorsement of her husband's views.
Netball South Australia chief executive Bronwyn Klei said while she was "fiercely determined to provide an inclusive environment" it would have been unfair to penalise Ms Folau for sharing the post.
"We also believe in fairness and perspective," Ms Klei said.
"Like millions of other people across Australia, Maria Folau uses her personal social media platform to share her life and beliefs with her family, friends and fans. This week, she shared her husband's controversial GoFundMe post.
"While Netball SA in no way endorses the reposting, we do not believe Maria has contravened our social media policy."
Netball New Zealand distanced itself from Israel Folau's original post but defended his wife saying the organisation had to strike a balance between all beliefs.
"We acknowledge that people have differing views and beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in constructive and respectful ways," a spokeswoman said.
Folau pocketed more than $1 million in donations for his legal bid on Tuesday via a website run by the Australian Christian Lobby, which was set up after his GoFundMe page was taken down. A spokeswoman for the ACL said the surge in donations showed the case was important to Australians of faith.
"Israel's case is our case as Australians, because it goes to the heart of what it means to live freely, without persecution," she said.
The Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies also came to defence of the Folaus on Tuesday, saying being able to express your faith publicly was a "fundamental importance in any democracy".
"It is of great concern to many Australians that this right is being denied and vilified," he said. "At the moment, only one side is being heard.
"The way in which Folau's motives have been impugned and his avenues of support have been cut off smacks of a new and ugly Australia where dissent from narrow cultural views is not tolerated."
HATING ON FOLAU IS NOT BIGOTRY
US fundraising giant GoFundMe banned former Wallaby Israel Folau from its site but had no problems facilitating donations to finance the legal fight of an anti-Semitic activist.
UK activist Pete Gregson was able to raise $1372 to pay for his legal bills after he was sacked from his job as a trade unionist for arguing the Jewish state of Israel "tends to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust for its own political ends".
Mr Gregson launched the GoFundMe fundraiser in October and his page is still active despite claiming the funds will go towards a campaign to pressure the British government into sanctioning Israel.
"If other countries then follow suit in sanctioning Israel, we might yet see it forced to abandon its 60-plus race laws to give Palestinians, including those in Gaza and West Bank, the right to vote in Knesset elections in a single-state solution," Mr Gregson posted.
A GoFundMe spokeswoman defended the decision to remove Folau's page this week saying the footballer raising funds for his legal fight with Rugby Australia contravened terms and conditions which prohibited the promotion of discrimination.
"While we welcome GoFundMe engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion," she said.
GoFundMe was also happy to take a small cut from the $18,280 raised for the legal battle of former British Labour candidate Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt. She was also axed for making anti-Semitic comments, including stating that "anti-Semitism has been weaponised by those who seek to silence anti-Zionist voices".
- Jack Houghton