Appearing as a guest on The Good, The Bad & The Rugby which Haskell presents along with Mike Tindall and Alex Payne, Vunipola was asked about the infamous Israel Folau saga, extreme religion and homophobic views that resulted in the termination of his Rugby Australia contract in 2019.
The Saracens back row said he “wouldn’t go about it the same way”, saying “it’d be more of a conversation” if it were to happen again and that he would “talk to whoever had any questions”.
Vunipola also addressed his decision not to take a knee ahead of Saracens fixture against Bristol last weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said: “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, I guess, Jesus.”
Upon sharing this clip on social media, Haskell shared a disclaimer distancing himself from some of Vunipola’s views.
BEING 100% CLEAR I DO NOT AGREE WITH BILLYS VIEWS ON RELIGION. I AM ON RECORD DISAGREEING WITH HIM AND FOLAU. MY BROTHER
IS GAY, I FIGHT FOR ANTI RACISM,
ANTI HOMOPHOBIA, ANTI OPPRESSION. I THOUGHT I SHOULD
MAKE THAT CLEAR FOR THE….. WELL YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE?????????
— James Haskell (@jameshaskell) August 21, 2020
The former England, Wasps and Northampton Saints flanker also said that his former teammate was “one of my favourite people on earth”, which is an insight into how two people may not necessarily see eye to eye on all topics but can still get along.
Haskell has spoken frequently about the polarising nature of social media, and only last weekend spoke to RugbyPass about how “there are certain sections of the sports fans who take great pride in slagging players off”. This perhaps explains why he felt the need to clarify his position following the podcast.
Throughout his career, Haskell sought to champion the inclusivity of minorities in rugby and continues to do so in retirement. He also touched upon this last week, saying: “The BLM party and extreme political views they have, I’m not on board.
“But the simple fact for a long time we have neglected a whole section of the world is abundantly clear. I do a lot of work with homophobia and transgender and everything else, those guys are asking for equality.”
"Many Northampton fans didn’t want me & were very outspoken. They assumed I was on mega wedge, not the academy contract that I essentially signed"@jameshaskell on hateful fan sites, I'm a Celebrity edits screwing him; MMA, BLM & more w/@heagneyl ???https://t.co/9SsEeGT790
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 16, 2020
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