Vunipola: Why I won't take a knee
REACTION: Billy Vunipola has again courted controversy when he revealed how his religion prevents him, as a non-white player, from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Vunipola was one of several players who declined to ‘take a knee’ in support of #BLM this past weekend.
While the initial fall-out and focus were on a host of white South African players who remained standing, Vunipola and fellow England international Manu Tuilagi were among the non-white players who also stood their ground.
Vunipola – one of three Sarries players, alongside South African forwards Michael Rhodes and Vincent Koch, who decided against ‘taking a knee’ – said it was because of his opposition to elements of the movement’s protests.
The England No.8 of Tongan heritage, remained standing before Saracens’ 12-16 Premiership loss to Bristol, while his elder brother Mako knelt.
Speaking on The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast, the devout Christian said he has serious reservations about the #BLM movement.
He also said that it was because of his religious convictions that he supported Israel Folau during his stand-off with Rugby Australia last year.
(Continue reading below video …)
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“I could easily have been: ‘I’m not going to support this’,” Vunipola said.
“I didn’t sleep for two or three days after I saw his post because something inside me was saying: ‘Do you actually believe in Jesus Christ or do you not?’
“That was the challenge I was battling with, not what Folau had said.
“It was something that challenged me to step up to a level I’d never been before in terms of: ‘Am I actually going to put myself in a position where people dislike me and ridicule me?’.
“I didn’t enjoy being ridiculed, I really didn’t. But at the same time what I did find comforting is that I stood up for my faith and I didn’t just fall by the wayside.
“[Now] I wouldn’t go about it the same way, it would be more of a conversation from my point of view. I’d talk to whoever had any questions. If it happened again now and I was asked: ‘Billy do you stand in support of it?’ I would have to say yes, because I’ve made my position clear.
“The way Folau came out with it was very abrupt and direct. Sometimes the Gospel is direct. But at the same time, we need to accept people for who they are and what they want to do with their own lives. It’s not for me to judge, it’s for God.
“At the middle of it all – to have forgiveness or to go to Heaven, or to not go to Hell – is believing in Jesus Christ and essentially that’s what I wanted to get across.
“A similar situation happened with the Black Lives Matter movement last week when we were asked if we want to take a knee or not,” Vunipola told The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast.
“What I saw in terms of that movement was not aligned with what I believe in. They were burning churches and Bibles. I can’t support that.
“Even though I am a person of colour, I’m still more a person of Jesus.”
Source: The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast