NZ PM queries SBW logo cover-up
Wellington - New Zealand's prime minister on Monday
criticised All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams' decision to block out a
sponsor's logo on his shirt apparently for religious reasons.
Williams appeared for the Auckland Blues during Saturday's
loss to the Highlanders with the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) logo taped over on
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) subsequently revealed Williams, a
devout Muslim, has a "conscientious objection" clause relating to
companies linked to products such as alcohol and tobacco.
In BNZ's case it apparently related to Islam's objection to
usury - earning high interest from loans - although the player has not yet
clarified his stance.
Prime Minister Bill English said he did not see why Williams
should receive special treatment when other players were expected to wear the
"It's hard to understand how one guy gets to behave
differently than the rest of them," he told TV3.
"I don't understand these professional contracts but if
you're in the team, you're in the team and you wear the team jersey."
NZR chief executive Steve Tew meanwhile admitted that
Williams had put his organisation in a "tricky" position.
He said it allowed players to make a moral stand, but
approached such complex issues on a case-by-case basis.
"They're all tricky because our commercial partners,
with a lot of good faith, come in to support the game," he told Radio
"They obviously need to get a return on their investment.
Part of that is the logo that we didn't see on Sonny Bill's jersey on
Tew acknowledged criticism that sponsors such as BNZ
deserved better treatment because their money was paying the players' wages.
"There is that element, isn't there? So that's why we
don't draw a blanket line anywhere," he said.
"We've got to sit down and work it through because
different people have a different view of different things... it's a judgement
Tew said the Blues would discuss the issue this week with
Williams and his agent Khoder Nasser.
Williams did not blank out the logo of Super Rugby's main
sponsor, banking and asset management group Investec, which appears on the arm
of the Blues' shirt.
It is also unclear whether his objections extend to US
insurance giant AIG, the All Blacks' shirt sponsor, which has a multi-billion
dollar mortgage loan business.