- Billy Vunipola has found himself at the centre of a controversy after he refused to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement
- The England rugby international remained standing last week when the Premiership resumed
- He has since defended himself, adding that some elements of the anti-racism protests did not align with his religious beliefs
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England rugby international Billy Vunipola sparked a divided reaction when he decided to stand while most of his Saracens team mates knelt in support of the BLM movement last week when the Premiership resumed.
All 12 the Premiership teams decided to show support for the anti-racism movement in their own unique ways.
However, when the Saracens players knelt before their match against Bristol Bears, the 27-year-old devout Christian decided to remain standing.
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Vunipola has since reacted to the backlash he faced over his decision. He spoke to The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast, revealing some of the BLM elements conflicts with his religion.
The 27-year-old said:
"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."
Several South African players followed Vunipola's example. Briefly.co.za reported over the weekend that eight SA players, who are playing Rugby in England, caused a controversy by refusing to show support for the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement.
The incident took place shortly before an English Premiership game. It was when the Harlequins took on Sale Sharks that 11 players from the Manchester club refused to kneel, 8 of them being South African.
Faf de Klerk, Lood de Jager, twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, their older brother Robert, Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen and club captain Jono Ross took the decision to remain standing.
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa responded to the incident and has asked what Rugby SA plans to do about the players who refused to kneel to support BLM.
He says their actions undermine the efforts of the government to combat anti-racism. The incident has caused quite a stir in South Africa and beyond and has raised questions about racism in sport.
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