New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Blues have accommodated Sonny Bill Williams’ request to have advertising from the BNZ and Investec removed from his Super Rugby playing jersey.
This is on the basis of Williams’ conscientious objection to this category of sponsorship, which can only be lodged on the basis of genuine family, ethical or religious grounds, and consent to excuse the player from an activity is not to be unreasonably withheld. Previously Williams has not been required to undertake promotional activities relating to categories of sponsors he has lodged objections to on religious grounds. Williams has now clarified his preference is not to wear logos from banks, alcohol brands and gambling sponsors on his team uniform.
“I want to be clear that this is nothing personal against the BNZ or Investec. 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,” said Sonny Bill Williams.
“As I learn more, and develop a deeper understanding of my faith I am no longer comfortable doing things I used to do. 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 know I’m not perfect. Every day I work hard to become a better person. I want to thank the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for working with me on this matter over the last couple of days and respecting my religion and accommodating my request.”
NZR General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said “Sonny holds clear religious beliefs in relation to this matter and we respect those. Conscientious objections need to be genuine, and we believe this is. We want to thank our Super Rugby sponsor Investec for their understanding of this.”
Blues Chief Executive Michael Redman was satisfied the matter had been dealt with.
“We are pleased that this matter has been resolved promptly and wish to thank our sponsor BNZ for their accommodation of this request from Sonny.”
Conscientious objection Q+A
What does the objection apply to?
The most recent discussions concern removal of the BNZ logo and the Investec logo from all Blues training and playing kit. For clarity, it does not include the removal of Investec from the tournament logo as this is a compulsory logo on all New Zealand Super Rugby teams jerseys in the tournament.
This is an extension of Sonny Bill Williams existing objections to promotional activity for financial institutions, alcohol and gambling sponsors.
Does it apply to ancillary branding such as signage?
No. The removal of the logos only relates to the training and playing kit that Sonny Bill Williams wears. Ancillary branding such as on-field advertising, media backdrops, stadium advertising branding etc is not impacted.
What about All Blacks sponsor AIG?
Sonny Bill Williams has assured New Zealand Rugby that his objection does not extend to insurance companies in relation to training and playing kit, specifically nib for the Blues and AIG for the All Blacks. He has already been recused from promotional activities with AIG.
Does this set a precedent?
No. The conscientious objection clause has been in the NZR and NZRPA collective agreement for some time and any player is entitled to invoke it based on genuine grounds.
Sonny Bill Williams has previously lodged conscientious objections in relation to banking and finance companies and this is simply a clarification of that objection in relation to a specific employment service he provides, i.e. what he wears when he is playing rugby.
There have been other examples nationally and internationally of sporting codes respecting players religious faiths and accommodating aspects of those faiths.