NZ Rugby likens Sonny Bill flak to homophobia

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:36
Large sonny bill williams blues 2017 800

REACTION: New Zealand Rugby (NZR) compared the vitriol surrounding Sonny Bill Williams' religious objections to wearing a banking logo with homophobia on Thursday, urging fans to respect the All Black star's beliefs.

Williams, a devout Muslim, appeared for the Blues last weekend with a bank logo on his shirt collar blocked out by tape.

It later emerged that he was exercising a "conscientious objection" clause in his contract, telling NZR he did not want to wear the logos of banks, alcohol brands or gambling sponsors.

His action sparked furious debate in New Zealand, with Prime Minister Bill English saying he did not understand why Williams should get special treatment.

"I sort of understand the vitriol that's happening around the country, people on Facebook and that," NZR General Manager of Rugby Neil Sorensen told Radio Sport.

He said there was ignorance in New Zealand about Islamic law - which objects to banks earning high interest from loans - and it was natural for people to react negatively to something they did not understand.

But Sorensen said views changed over time, pointing to modern attitudes to homosexuality.

"I remember 20 years ago when I was a young 20-year-old, homosexuality for me was like 'yuk' and it was easy for me to say 'you gay wanker'," he said.

"But I've learned over the years and I'm a hell of a lot more open and more tolerant now."

Williams' logo cover-up took NZR by surprise but after discussions this week it agreed he could wear a special Blues jersey with no branding from the bank or Super Rugby's main sponsor.

Sorensen said Williams had no problem wearing the logo the All Blacks' shirt sponsor, which is primarily an insurance company but also has a huge mortgage portfolio earning market interest rates.

But he said the player would not take part in off-field sponsor promotions, saying "you'd have to ask Sonny" when pressed on details about his stance.

Sorensen launched a spirited defence of Williams, who has often proved a polarising figure for fans.

"He doesn't abuse alcohol, he doesn't do drugs, he doesn't beat women, he's just a good bloke, you know?

"If we have more Sonny Bills in the world we might have more challenges about different beliefs, but I think our society would be better off."

Agence France-Presse

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 29 July 2017
Crusaders v Chiefs 07h35 Christchurch
Golden Lions v Griquas 10h00 Johannesburg
Lions v Hurricanes 12h30 Ellis Park
Sharks v Pumas 15h00 Durban
Sun, 30 July 2017
Free State Cheetahs v Western Province 12h30 Bloemfontein
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 23 July 2017
Pumas v Golden Lions 43 | 36
Sat, 22 July 2017
Griquas v Blue Bulls 45 | 51
Stormers v Chiefs 11 | 17
Lions v Sharks 23 | 21
Crusaders v Highlanders 17 | 0
Fri, 21 July 2017
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks 47 | 12
Brumbies v Hurricanes 16 | 35
Sat, 15 July 2017
Sharks v Lions 10 | 27
Bulls v Stormers 33 | 41
Force v Waratahs 40 | 11
Hurricanes v Crusaders 31 | 22
Chiefs v Brumbies 28 | 10
Sunwolves v Blues 43 | 21
Fri, 14 July 2017
Kings v Cheetahs 20 | 21
Rebels v Jaguares 29 | 32
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
Rebels 15 1 1 13 9
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 15 14 0 1 63
Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
Chiefs 15 12 1 2 57
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 0 5 43
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 15 14 0 1 65
Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
Jaguares 15 7 0 8 33
Kings 15 6 0 9 28