Wallabies Samu Kerevi and Taniela Tupou have made headlines this week for their religious comments on social media, as Israel Folau’s code of conduct hearing date draws near. Kerevi apologised for a social media post he made over Easter, in which he thanked Jesus for dying on the cross, and Tupou supported the initial post.
It is unclear why Kerevi felt the need to apologise, given his post was not offensive and did not target any groups (in contrast to Folau’s homophobic post earlier in April). The initial post was simply an affirmation of his faith on Easter. He later clarified that he was not apologising for his faith, but that his post was taken out of context.
In the wake of the Folau saga some Pacific Islander players are feeling that they are being stifled from expressing their religious beliefs, which is unlikely to be Rugby Australia’s intention. Folau, for example, made 53 Instagram posts in the last year, 43 of them religious, and was only sanctioned for the latest one where he stated that gay people need to repent or go to Hell.
Kerevi’s initial post was almost certainly not intended to be a statement of anything other than affirming his faith over Easter, and it is unclear who exactly took offence or demanded an apology – although it was almost certainly not an RA official. Tupou, meanwhile, seems to be threatening a mass mutiny of Pasifika players if they are not allowed to express their religion.
Tupou’s comment that RA “might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islander players” is sure to raise alarm bells, as it seems that some players, at least, have misinterpreted Folau’s sacking as an attack on all Christian expression. There will almost certainly be some calls going around today clarifying the line between religious expression and breaching the Code of Conduct all players are expected to abide by – which only comes into play when discrimination occurs.
Folau’s hearing is scheduled for the 4th of May.