A couple of weeks or so ago on the Rust I referenced the spot of bother that Aussie rugby great Israel Folau had got himself into for repeating his fundamentalist Christian beliefs in public and then being vilified variously by Rugby Australia, former and current players around the world and also sundry commentators, politicians politically-correct activists to the point where – up ‘before the beak’ (Rugby Australia) – he was threatened and then issued with major sanctions including potentially losing his contract with them if he didn’t button his lip in future and apologise.
As I understand the latest position, he is preparing the appeal the above decision(s) and has hired a heavy-duty legal team in order to plead his case.
Since the Folau case hit the headlines, Billy Vunipola – the Saracens and England Number 8, also of Pacific Island origins – has similarly got himself into hot water by stating that he sympathises with Folau.
He subsequently came in for some flak from ‘the great and good’, endured booing from some sections in the crowd (and a spectator berating him on the pitch) during Saracens’ recent European championship clash with Munster and has been up before the RFU for expressing his views and given a warning about his future conduct.
In Vunipola’s case, the issue hasn’t quite been resolved because (although this was expected by the RFU) he has not apologised and – by not ‘removing’ something he had posted online on the subject – he has made it clear that he’s not going to row back on his beliefs.
See here for a link to criticisms of Vunipola made by former England great now media pundit and commentator Lawrence Dallaglio as appear on the website of the – DAILY MAIL
My original concerns on this subject were and remain the complexities of the key issue – whether in the modern PC world a sports personality of devout religious and perhaps fundamentalist beliefs is allowed to express them, irrespective of whether he’s deliberately chosen to do so in public or is replying to a question posed to him by a journalist, or even an individual in the street.
The problem doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone in the public eye.
I saw a television interview he gave a month or so ago in which the topic of abortion was raised. He reconciled his religious anti-abortion stance with the current UK position by stating that he retained his own views on the matter but also accepted that a law allowing abortion in certain circumstances (including choice) had existed in the UK for some decades and, of course, he accepted that, as with all others, the law must be obeyed.
I should declare an interest here: I am an atheist. However, I respect the right of religious people to hold any and all the views they do, especially if these make them happy and/or ‘inform’ and enrich the lives they (and other like them) lead.
This subject may now run for a while and I shall be following how it does with interest.
In the meantime, here are two new developments that I spotted on the internet overnight:
Firstly, another Australian rugby player Taniela Tupou has broken ranks and raised the prospect of a player revolt – see here for a piece that appears on this story today in – THE GUARDIAN
Secondly, Trevor Phillips – a public figure who first came to my attention as a television producer and executive and later in his work as head of the Commission for Racial Equality and its successor the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) – has entered the lists with a piece on the news that, in classic modern PC style atonement, Cambridge University is to conduct and inquiry into its own past connections with the slave trade.
See here as appears today on the website of the – DAILY TELEGRAPH