England rugby star Billy Vunipola has defended his views about gay people, after being rebuked for a post in support of disgraced player Israel Folau.
In April, Vunipola was handed a formal warning by the Rugby Football Union and his team the Saracens over social media posts defending Folau, who was sacked from the Australian national team over a slew of anti-LGBT remarks.
Vunipola had liked Instagram posts from Folau, warning that “hell awaits” gay people, before writing: “There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough. Man was made for woman to procreate, that was the goal no?”
Speaking to the media on Tuesday (July 16), the player said he stood by his comments, but did not want to be a “distraction” to the England national team ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
England rugby star Billy Vunipola: I don’t want to become a distraction
He said: “I think we have talked about it at length, not just me, but the RFU and the people at Saracens.
“We came to a conclusion that this issue, that people say I brought on myself, is better off left alone.
“I have made my position clear and what I don’t want to do is become a distraction to the players around me.”
He added: “If I was a boxer and it was just me that I was affecting, I would sit here and answer your question. But it doesn’t just affect me.
“It affects the coaching staff [and] the players, because you will be asking their opinions on it.
“It is firmly what I put out there and it is firmly on me, but at the same time I don’t want to put them under the cosh by saying this, this and this – because that is unfair to them.
“I want it to be known that you guys know where I stand. I’m not going to expand on it or take a step back. That is not me being stubborn, but me not wanting the players to be affected by it as it is not fair on them.”
Vunipola has never removed the post.
Rugby star handed formal warning over post
In a statement in April, the Saracens said: “At Saracens, we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility.
“We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy’s intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence.
“However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the Club and contravenes his contractual obligations.
“The player has been formally warned about his future conduct.”
The RFU said that the player was “issued with a formal warning” and was “reminded of his responsibilities as an England player and as an ambassador for the game, which values inclusivity and respect.”
The comments also led Channel 4 to cut ties with the player, who had been signed up as the face of its European rugby coverage.
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