Former All Black and one-time anti-nuclear protester Josh Kronfeld supports Sonny Bill Williams’ right to make a conscientious objection against a bank sponsor’s logo, but finds it “a bit humorous” that New Zealand Rugby has accepted it so readily.
Williams taped over the BNZ logo on his shirt’s shoulder after making his debut for the Blues against the Highlanders on Saturday night.
A New Zealand Rugby statement later claimed Williams had a contractual right to make a “conscientious objection” to finance companies, banks and alcohol, tobacco and gambling companies.
Kronfeld told Stuff on Monday that he “couldn’t help but chuckle” at NZ Rugby’s response.
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Twenty-two years ago the former flanker caused a stir at NZ Rugby headquarters when he daubed white anti-nuclear slogans on his black headgear while playing for Otago.
Kronfeld’s 1995 protest against French nuclear testing in the Pacific came just weeks before the All Blacks were to tour France.
He remembered being told he could not wear the headgear slogans – which included “no testing” – in Paris.
“Unfortunately, I got injured and I didn’t really get a chance to do it,” said Kronfeld, who gave the clear impression he would have found a way to make his point had he played.
Kronfeld said he “did laugh, to be honest” when he saw “that [New Zealand Rugby] were all OK with [Sonny Bill Williams’ stance].
“I suppose it’s a slightly different situation. I wanted to advertise [the anti-nuclear issue] on my headgear, Sonny was blocking something out.
“But I think it’s ironic that an individual can make a stand now and NZR can be happy with someone blocking off the logo of a sponsor. Especially with sponsorship being a key part of rugby.”
Kronfeld said he thought “Sonny’s stance is pretty valid”.
“It’s something we should all be aware of, but it’s a bit of a double standard.
“They’ve come a long way since ’95,” he chuckled.
Kronfeld said he still firmly believed rugby players should be “able to make statements” on important issues “if it’s not affecting individuals or the team or the likes of the union or bringing the game into disrepute.
“I think it’s pretty valid, as long as it’s not done willy nilly.”
He said Williams’ stance “could have had quite severe repercussions” if the sponsor had objected, but he noted the bank seemed relaxed about it.
“That’s good; it’s probably more advertising for them anyway.”
Kronfeld said making a conscientious objection stand was not a lot different “to what the boys have been doing for a while” in writing slogans on their wristbands which could be clearly seen on television.
Looking back on his own experience, Kronfeld said “the French love a protest – it’s a big part of their culture but not so much here in New Zealand”.
“If I got the opportunity [to wear the anti-nuke headgear] I don’t think there would have been massive repercussions.”