NZ Rugby likens Sonny Bill flak to homophobia

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:36
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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

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Wed, 31 May 2017
New Zealand U20 v Scotland U20 07h00 AIA Arena
England U20 v Samoa U20 07h00 Tbilisi
South Africa U20 v France U20 09h30 Tbilisi
Ireland U20 v Italy U20 09h30 AIA Arena
Argentina U20 v Georgia U20 12h00 Tbilisi
Australia U20 v Wales U20 14h30 Tbilisi
Fri, 02 June 2017
Blues v Reds 07h35 Auckland
Sat, 03 June 2017
Crusaders v Highlanders 02h35 Christchurch
Chiefs v Waratahs 05h05 Hamilton
NZ Barbarians v B&I Lions 07h35 Toll Stadium
Brumbies v Rebels 09h45 Canberra
Force v Hurricanes 11h35 Perth
Sun, 04 June 2017
Ireland U20 v Scotland U20 07h00 AIA Arena
Argentina U20 v France U20 07h00 Tbilisi
New Zealand U20 v Italy U20 09h30 AIA Arena
Australia U20 v Samoa U20 09h30 Tbilisi
South Africa U20 v Georgia U20 12h00 Tbilisi
England U20 v Wales U20 14h30 Tbilisi
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 28 May 2017
Lions v Kings 54 | 10
Sat, 27 May 2017
Jaguares v Brumbies 15 | 39
Munster v Scarlets 22 | 46
Sharks v Stormers 22 | 10
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 20 | 23
Bulls v Hurricanes 20 | 34
Rebels v Crusaders 19 | 41
Highlanders v Waratahs 44 | 28
Sunwolves v Cheetahs 7 | 47
Fri, 26 May 2017
Reds v Force 26 | 40
Blues v Chiefs 16 | 16
Sun, 21 May 2017
Waratahs v Rebels 50 | 23
Sat, 20 May 2017
Kings v Brumbies 10 | 19
Munster v Ospreys 23 | 3
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 21 | 20
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 12 5 0 7 28
Waratahs 12 4 0 8 19
Force 12 4 0 8 17
Reds 12 3 0 9 16
Rebels 12 1 1 10 8
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 13 13 0 0 59
Hurricanes 12 10 0 2 48
Highlanders 13 10 0 3 45
Chiefs 12 9 1 2 45
Blues 13 6 1 6 33
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 12 7 0 5 34
Cheetahs 13 3 0 10 16
Bulls 12 3 0 9 15
Sunwolves 12 1 0 11 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 13 12 0 1 56
Sharks 13 9 1 3 42
Jaguares 12 5 0 7 24
Kings 12 4 0 8 19