Polynesian Christian rugby players have spoken out against the draconian manner in which Australian rugby star Israel Folau has been treated over an Instagram post.
Mr Folau – an international player with 73 caps – looks set to be kicked out of the sport by Australia’s rugby authorities after posting an Instagram image which was claimed to be homophobic. His code of conduct hearing was held in May in Sydney.
Following this, other rugby players have come under pressure. Ireland and Connacht centre Bundee Aki was forced to apologise for mistakenly ‘liking’ the post and for any ‘confusion or offence’.
Similarly, Fiji-born Wallabies player Samu Kerevi apologised on Instagram after posting about his love for Jesus before Easter.
England International Billy Vunipola was also issued with a warning by his club and the Rugby Football Union for expressing support for Mr Folau, as well as for posting about his own Christian views on marriage.
Global media agencies have since reported that many rugby players are now speaking up, because many of the players from the Pacific Islands – Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – are believers or at least have a strong Christian heritage.
According to the Financial Times, Taniela Tupou, Tonga-born hooker for the Wallabies, told his Facebook followers all Pacific Islanders ‘might as well’ be sacked for their Christian beliefs.
In April, the Christian Institute wrote to the RFU, calling into question its impartiality. The Institute questioned why England player James Haskell has not been sanctioned for saying an orthodox view of the Bible is a ‘road map to killing people’, whilst Mr Vunipola was disciplined for expressing Christian views.
In the letter, Colin Hart, Institute director, said social media rules ‘must be applied consistently and without discrimination’.