When Sony Bill William covered up a BNZ logo on his rugby shirt he crossed a line that few have crossed in New Zealand; he made a public display of his religious convictions.
It was a move that made world-wide headlines and it was not received well by all.
It even merited a comment from the prime minister of New Zealand, Bill English, “It is hard to understand that one guy has to behave differently than the rest,” he said.
Williams said his objection to wearing clothing that markets banks is central to his religious beliefs.
In many cultures it is not unusual to see people in the public eye giving some expression to their religious conviction. Players can be seen making the sign of the cross, or pointing up to heaven after they have scored.
Teams gather for prematch prayer sessions and even attend church services together.
But in New Zealand such displays of religious conviction are rare. New Zealanders of European decent tend to be more circumspect.
“Religion is normally considered a private matter in New Zealand. We don’t expect politicians, celebrities or sports stars to make heartfelt public declarations of their beliefs as they do in the United States, ” writes Philip Matthews.
Matthews goes on to say that there is an exception to the rule:
” If we have an unofficial national faith, it is a tolerant and pragmatic agnosticism. Except if the religion is Islam, when it is assumed we all need to know.”
“Recent scandals involving sex, drugs and alcohol have prompted another round of soul-searching,” says Matthews.
” By comparison, the strong moral position taken by Williams, clearly based on personal faith, can only be considered a good news story for rugby.”
“And no matter which side you are on, or who you worship, Williams’ decision to replace the BNZ logo with Plunket was a public relations masterstroke.”
News category: New Zealand.