Former Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle said she received death threats over the handling of the Israel Folau case.
Folau was sacked by RA in May 2019 for what the body described as a “high-level breach” of its code after he posted hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” on social media having been warned over previous online posts in 2018.
A settlement was later reached between the two parties after Folau claimed for wrongful dismissal.
Castle, who quit her role in April this year following pressure from the board and a host of ex-Wallabies captains, opened up on the measures that had to be put in place after she was threatened by a Folau supporter.
“I had some very difficult times during it, particularly with social media and death threats,” Castle said as a keynote speaker at the Women in Sport Aotearoa and trans-Tasman Business Circle’s ‘Change Inspires Change’ session.
“We had to close down the office and have extra security, and my house had to be checked out to make sure that it was safe and that no one could get into it or find me.
“Certainly in my time here in Australia [I] have generated and earned a lot of new battle scars, some probably deeper than I’d planned.”
Castle said she has no regrets over the situation and spoke of the “resilience” that was required.
“The reality of it is that we were very firm in our values. So we’re very clear that [Folau’s] social media messaging was totally inappropriate. It was a breach of an employment contract,” she added.
“But it was also about the values the organisation stood for, and unless you’re actually prepared to stand up and back in those values, and say ‘yes, that’s what we believe in and this is who we stand for as an organisation’, then those values don’t mean anything to anyone.
“The resilience required to make sure that we could work through what was a very difficult and long situation, that went for about 12 months [and that] was something that certainly for me created another layer of resilience.
“[Resilience] certainly helps you when you can lead through really difficult times.
“You really can’t run your business through social media feedback. Otherwise, your strategy would be all over the place.
“You have to be brave enough to say ‘this is it, this is what I’m doing’ and stick to it.
“But certainly for me those trusted advisers who helped guide me, and also give me some really clear and honest feedback are the people that helped me through those difficult times.”
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