Billy Vunipola (Pic: Clément Bucco-Lechat)
English forward Billy Vunipola has been officially reprimanded for his public support of disgraced Aussie rugby star Israel Folau’s homophobia.
England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced on Tuesday that it had issued Vunipola, 26, with a formal warning “for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game.”
Vunipola plays for Saracens in the English Premiership and for the England national team. On Friday. he came under fire for liking and defending Folau’s social media post stating that “Hell awaits” gay and lesbian people.
Vunipola wrote that, “What he [Folau] is saying is not that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?”
The warning will be retained on his disciplinary record for a period of five years and may be taken into account in future disciplinary proceedings.
RFU said that Vunipola had “expressed genuine regret at his public comments and understood that he had caused hurt and offence” as a result of his actions.
“He has been reminded of his responsibilities as an England player and as an ambassador for the game, which values inclusivity and respect,” said the union.
“I can see that my recent post has hurt people. My intention was never to cause suffering,” said Vunipola in a statement.
“My intention was to express my belief in the word of God. These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team.”
He added: “Anyone who knows me, knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people.”
Last week, Rugby Australia announced that it would terminate Folau’s four-year $4 million contract because of his repeated homophobic social media posts. The sports star has remained unrepentant and said that “my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”