Written By: - Date published: 11:45 am, April 17th, 2017 - 108 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: mike hosking, sonny bill williams, tony veitch
Sonny Bill Williams is someone who has grown on me. My initial impression of him was that he was an overpaid professional footballer who tore up contracts for more money and code jumped just because he could. But he has changed dramatically and improved.
He converted to the faith of Islam in 2008 while playing in Toulon. Up until then he had been involved in different incidents of low level inappropriate behaviour clearly fueled by alcohol. But since converting to Islam he has been an exemplary citizen.
Think of his giving away his World Cup winner’s medal straight after the final of the Rugby World Cup in 2015. A more generous gesture is hard to imagine. If there is an All Black spirit then this action shound exemplify it.
He has recently courted controversy in some quarters because he has insisted on covering up BNZ advertisements on his Blue’s Rugby shirt. The reason he did this is that promoting a bank that charges interest on loans is incompatiable with his Muslim faith. The issue is covered in Mediawatch here. From the article:
… Radio Sport’s Tony Veitch said last weekend SBW makes his own rules and is “the most controversial sportsman we’ve ever had”.
More than 5000 comments on his Facebook page proved it was a genuine story, he told listeners. Caller after caller to his Veitch on Sport show condemned SBW for “disrespecting team culture” and making himself “bigger than the game”.
On his Newstalk ZB show – which is, coincidentally , sponsored by BNZ – Mike Hosking said SBW was “potentially undermining all that sport stands for,” though even by Hosking’s own logic it could only be sponsored professional sport being challenged.
Hosking said SBW’s outstanding talent and profile gave him the clout to set his own terms and conditions – and Hosking knows all about special rules for special talent.
In 2012, TVNZ had to create a special policy to ensure he didn’t talk about Sky City on air, because he had a commercial relationship with the company TVNZ had been unaware of until The Herald on Sunday reported it.
Get that? By not wanting to be a walking corporate billboard he is disrespecting team culture. And clearly the game is all about the corporate sponsors and if you don’t accept this you are undermining what rugby stands for. Have we really been that badly brainwashed that some of our population think that the national game is completely intertwined with and subservient to corporate interests?
You would think that BNZ would be up in arms about this. But wait …
Did SBW break any rules?
No. Most professional rugby players have had the same right of conscientious objection in their contracts for about ten years, and in any case BNZ said it wasn’t bothered by SBW covering up its logo. New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen told Morning Report SBW had already opted out of promotional work for All Blacks sponsor AIG, and other top players had opted out of promoting fast-food maker KFC because of concerns about obesity in the community, or even their own whānau.
So Veitch and Hosking are both not only expousing strange views on the relationship between the national game and corporate sponsors but they are also wrong about the legal situation.
They seem to think that the corportisation of sport is a good thing. I am not so sure. In terms of playing numbers rugby is but a shadow of its former self. My impression is that there are now a few feeder teams delivering further talent to the professional sport. At a grassroots level the sport now lacks the vibrancy and parochialism that soccer has. If you said this 30 years ago people would have called you crazy.
Note to Veitchy and Hoskin even if your personal contractual arrangements are dominated by and dependent on corporate interests there are a few areas of life that are not and should not be so dominated. And this is actually a good thing.