England and Saracens talisman Billy Vunipola deliberately avoided Black Lives Matter protests – insisting he is more a man of Jesus.
Vunipola, the Tongan-born England No.8, remained standing while his Saracens teammates took a knee before the Gallagher Premiership match with Bristol as rugby returned after the coronavirus lay-off.
While his brother Mako kneeled, Vunipola explained to the The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast why he did not.
He said: “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.
“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.”
Vunipola is familiar with criticism after placing his Christian faith in the public domain. Last season he received formal warnings from the Rugby Football Union and Saracens.
But the barnstorming back-rower is adamant defending his faith is the right thing to do.
He added: “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 anybody else in the media 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 Israel Folau came out with his views 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.”
From New Life Newspaper issue 317.