Street art attack on Israel Folau fuels row

A new street art mural which depicts Israel Folau begging on a milk crate with a cash card reader and a Lamborghini, is dividing opinion.

The painting by Sydney-based artist Scott Marsh popped up overnight in Newtown, in Sydney’s Inner West, an area strongly supportive of gay rights.

It depicts Folau as a street beggar with a baseball cap filled with change, next to the luxury sports car and with an EFTPOS machine at his feet. Most notable in the mural is a remixed religious verse written on a cardboard sign with a bank account number.

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“The righteous shall taketh from the punters for the dignity of one’s property portfolio is most sacred in the eyes of the Lord. Amen!” it reads.

The mural comes after Folau started a GoFundMe campaign asking people to donate $3 million to fight the termination of his contract by Rugby Australia following a series of homophobic social media posts.

“He’s quoting all these bible passages but he’s not living by the ones he’s in breach of,” said Mark Walgrove, a 36-year-old lawyer from the Inner West, after seeing the mural. “What about love thy neighbour? Judge not lest you be judged?”

The Go Fund Me campaign was taken down by the site following a backlash from the public at Folau’s attempt to crowdfund his legal action when he had reportedly earned a $1 million-a-year salary and has a property portfolio of $7 million.

The Australian Christian Lobby has since picked up the campaign on their website and donated $100,000 to the cause. They also said over 20,000 people had made donations as of the end of June.

And not everyone was happy with the latest attack on the gifted but controversial rugby union star.

“Folau was sacked for sharing his personal religious beliefs. He is not only fighting for his own contract but also wants to represent his faith and free expression of religious beliefs,” said Jachin B, an IT student from Western Sydney.

“Rugby Australia is getting all the support. Of course Folau needs financial support if he wants to fight them and make a change.”

The mural is on a wall owned by the Botany View Hotel which has allowed Marsh to do several artworks in the past.

“We didn’t commission it but we do support what it stands for,” said Patty, the owner of the hotel. “I don’t think it’ll cause an uproar like some of his past pieces. People in this area would be in agreement with what it stands for.”

A business student from South-West Sydney Susan, who chose to keep her last name anonymous, said of the painting: “I think it’s a good depiction of the kind of hypocrisy he’s dishing out.”

Retail worker Ella White added: “He lives a life of luxury in a country where we protect free speech. He shouldn’t be asking for donations when he’s cosied-up in one of his properties.”

The former rugby player and his lawyer met with Rugby Australia last week for a meeting. Folau is said to be seeking $10 million in damages and a reinstatement of his contract. The two sides have been unable to come to an agreement.

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