Billy Vunipola has explained why he chose not to take a knee to support the Black Lives Matter movement last weekend.
Vunipola opted to remain standing during Saracens’ 16-12 Premiership loss to Bristol on Saturday, their first game in five months.
The number eight was not alone in his decision, as teammate Manu Tuilagi also chose to stand.
While his brother Mako took a knee, Vunipola explained that his decision was based on his religious beliefs.
“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, I guess, Jesus.”
Earlier this year, reports in the US claimed that churches and religious statues were set on fire and vandalised following the death of George Floyd.
Support of Israel Folau
Vunipola was embroiled in controversy last year when he defended Israel Folau following the former Australian international’s post on social media stating that hell awaits for homosexuals.
“Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?”, Vunipola wrote on Instagram.
Following the post, the 27-year-old received formal warnings from the Rugby Football Union and Saracens.
Though he admits he would now go about it in a different manner, Vunipola is satisfied that he stood up for his beliefs.
“I could easily have been, ‘I’m not going to support this.’
“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”, Vunipola continued.
“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.”