The punishments meted out may be different but the incidents involving both Israel Folau and Billy Vunipola’s social media posts and the responses to them show that the values of rugby remain vitally important and must be upheld.
It is an old truism that rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes. That is debatable in the modern professional game but there’s no doubt it should be a sport for all regardless of gender, sexuality, race, etc and let’s hope the response to Folau and Vunipola ensures it remains so.
I completely agree with the decision taken by the ARU. Folau has been warned about this kind of thing before and what he posted on social media clearly violated rules or guidelines put in place by the organisation as well.
They have confirmed that he has “committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct warranting termination of his employment contract”.
I am a Christian and there are various different denominations that make up the religion, varying degrees to which it is followed and it means different things to different people but his views are extreme ones and I don’t think they’re shared by most Christians.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but when you are saying that homosexuals will go to hell unless they repent that’s bordering on religious extremism really and, as well as it having no place in rugby, you can’t be preaching that when you’re in his position.
Obviously it has shocked and offended a lot of people but people look up to him and you don’t know what damaging effects it could have on people who want to have the strength and courage to be themselves and come out as homosexual.
Mental health is such an important issue in sport and society as a whole and his words do have the potential to cause harm. I think it’s great the way that the overwhelming majority of the rugby world has joined together to speak out against this sort of attitude.
The ARU’s stance is a hard one and a brave one because, ultimately, he’s Australia’s best player and there is a World Cup in less than six months. It shows that values and the inclusivity of rugby are more important than one man’s ability and that should be applauded.
I played with Euan Murray and he was a deeply religious man, so much so that he didn’t play on Sundays. Nobody had a problem with him holding those beliefs but there was an incident when we were playing cards on the bus and he was trying to preach to people.
At that point, I think it does become an issue because everyone is entitled to live their life how they see fit and I don’t think anyone has the right to impose their beliefs on other people.
Clearly, I’m not equating Euan’s actions with those of Folau but I just don’t think there’s any need for the Australian to preach and alienate large groups of people.
Quite what Billy Vunipola was thinking liking the post and then coming out with the line that “man was made for woman to procreate” when Folau was already hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons only he knows.
He obviously has his beliefs too and was honest enough to say that he has been “at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life” but his intervention was ill-advised.
I think Saracens acted swiftly in issuing a statement to confirm that Vunipola’s post was inconsistent with the club’s values and I think formally warning him about his future conduct was the right call as well.
His indiscretion was not as bad as Folau’s and let’s not forget that Folau has repeatedly been warned about this before, whereas Billy has not.
Anyone who knows Billy will tell you he’s not a malicious person and he has said himself that he lives “with kindness and love towards ALL people”. That doesn’t mean it’s ok but I do think a formal warning is sufficient in his case.
I know there is a meeting taking place with the RFU this week as well but I don’t expect too severe a punishment to be handed out if they do act. It would be good to see an educational element to any punishment that is forthcoming.
It’d have been interesting to see what would’ve happened if this had happened in the middle of the Six Nations as I do think he might have been dropped. Although, they pick him and pay him per game, though, they don’t directly employ him so it is different for them.
Whatever your views on the cases of Folau and Vunipola, it hasn’t been a good episode for rugby but the response has at least shown that those beliefs don’t have any place in the game and it is an inclusive sport. Long may that continue.
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