ANZ bank has denied pressuring Netball New Zealand over Maria Folau's support for her husband in his runaway bid to raise $3 million from "the quiet Australians" to fund a legal battle against Rugby Australia.
The bank, one of the big four in Australia, sponsors Netball NZ while Mrs Folau plays for the Silver Ferns national team, as well as the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
"We value our partnership with Netball NZ and any suggestion we have tried to pressure them is absolutely incorrect," ANZ said in a statement on Wednesday.
Netball NZ released a statement of their own on Tuesday, which fuelled reports about ANZ’s role in he furore.
“Netball New Zealand values inclusion and diversity across all areas of the community and our sport whether its gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, religion, and we take responsibility as role models for young New Zealanders very seriously,” they said.
“We acknowledge that people have differing views and beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in constructive and respectful ways.”
Why is Maria Folau in hot water?
Israel Folau is in the "fight of my life" to be reinstated by RA, which pulled his $4 million contract in May after the committed Christian posted a Bible passage on social media and was criticised for being homophobic.
The post said "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
Maria Folau has made no public statements on her husband's plight - which he claims is discrimination on religious grounds - but reposted two links to her husband's fundraising campaign five days ago.
Netball Australia and Suncorp Netball also released statements saying Maria wouldn’t be sanctioned, which sparked an angry response from Liz Ellis.
"Yeah nah not good enough," the former Australian Diamonds captain said.
"There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome.”
Yeah nah not good enough.— Liz Ellis (@LizzyLegsEllis) June 23, 2019
How about this:
There is no room for homophobia in our game. 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. pic.twitter.com/IR5jecVm6O
Christian Lobby boss grilled
Israel Folau is trying to build a $3 million war chest to support his unfair dismissal case against RA, which he believes could go all the way to the High Court.
The ex-Wallaby also wants up to $10 million in damages.
It's been a rocky road this week for the star rugby back after his first fundraiser on GoFundMe was pulled by the platform for breaching its terms of services after raising more than $750,000.
But the Australian Christian Lobby put its website resources behind a campaign relaunch and on Wednesday morning it had raised more than $1.6 million of its target.
ACL head Martyn Iles said the average donation was just below $100 and the number of donors was being clocked at 10 per minute.
"The quiet Australians are speaking with their wallets," he told Seven's Sunrise program.
"A lot of people have actually said that they want to give, but GoFundMe haven't refunded them yet - so there's a lot of juice left in this."
Mr Iles also weighed in on ANZ, saying Israel's wife shouldn't be targeted.
"They have condemned her for sharing a post by her husband and putting her employer, the New Zealand national netball team, on notice as well," he told Nine's Today show.
"It doesn't surprise me at all. This is precisely the reason why people are supporting Israel Folau.
"It is all under this language of inclusion, but not so inclusive they can include somebody with beliefs they disagree with."
ANZ said while it would continue to support Netball NZ, "we do not support any views or actions that can be interpreted as supporting homophobia".
Mr Iles also rejected suggestions the ACL was breaching its obligations as a charity by hosting the campaign, amid reports complaints had been lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
He said Israel Folau was not an ACL member and the organisation's purpose was to advocate changes in law and public policy.
"This is a religious freedom issue which has implications for law and public policy," he said.
“It’s all under this language of inclusion, but not so inclusive that they can include someone with beliefs they disagree with.” @MartynLloydIles from the @ACLobby on the Israel Folau saga and promises the $1.5 million will “absolutely not” be used for personal use. #9Today pic.twitter.com/coUD95G0oF— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 25, 2019