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Rugby star permitted to cover up sponsors’ logos on religious grounds

28th Apr 2017
Rugby star permitted to cover up sponsors’ logos on religious grounds

New Zealand rugby union player Sonny Bill Williams is permitted to cover up sponsors’ logos on religious grounds (Photo: Geoff Trotter/Flickr: All Blacks CC)

Nadine Osman

Sonny Bill Williams will be allowed to continue covering up a sponsor’s logo on his Auckland Blues shirt after the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) agreed to the All Blacks player’s request based on his religious beliefs.

The All Blacks centre, who converted to Islam in 2008, put tape over Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) and Investec logos when he returned to Super Rugby on April 8, following a seven-month absence through injury.

The move raised the possibility of disciplinary action, but the NZRU accommodated Williams’ request after he lodged a “conscientious objection”. The Blues support his stance.
From April 17, Williams will instead wear a bespoke jersey that bears the name of the children’s support service, Plunket, over where the banks’ logo would normally be.

The Blues kit also features two Investec logos – one on each sleeve. The international specialist banking and asset company is the Super Rugby competition’s main sponsor and also has a deal in place with the NZRU.

Williams will also be allowed to cover up one of those logos – that referring to the relationship with the NZRU – but not the other, which appears on the competition logo and is compulsory on all New Zealand Super Rugby teams’ jerseys.
Plunket, an NGO providing support for parents and preschool children, is a partner of BNZ, which suggested the replacement solution to Williams and his manager.

The BNZ chief executive, Anthony Healy, said: “We think this is a fantastic outcome for all.”
A spokesperson for the bank added they didn’t have an issue with Williams covering their logo. “He’s entitled to have religious beliefs and customs around that … So we have no issue with it,” she said.

Clarifying his position Williams said “this is nothing personal against the BNZ or Investec,” adding, “My objection to wearing clothing that markets banks, alcohol and gambling companies is central to my religious beliefs, and it is important to me to have been granted this exemption. As I learn more and develop a deeper understanding of my faith, I am no longer comfortable doing things I used to do.”

He elaborates, “So while a logo on a jersey might seem like a small thing to some people, it is important to me that I do the right thing with regards to my faith and hope that people respect that. I want to thank the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for working with me through this matter over the last couple of days, and respecting my religion and accommodating my request.”

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