The New Zealand rugby team - known to us all as the All Blacks - are one of the most famous entities in world sport. They've become such a famous entity due to incredible performances on the pitch, and savvy branding off it.
Which makes a social media controversy today sparked by a tweet from the All Blacks account all the more surprising.
Today is, of course, International Women's Day. To mark the occasion, the All Blacks Twitter account shared the following message on its account this morning.
The tweet reads: "Forever grateful to all the women in our lives that allow us to play the game we love. Partners, mothers, daughters, doctors, physios, referees, administrators and fans. Appreciate you every day."
Featured in the post is Sevu Reece, who in 2019 was involved in an violent incident in Wellington with his partner where "he chased her down the street, dragging her to the ground."
Rugby fans were angered to see both Reece and Aaron Smith in the post, and curious why no female New Zealand rugby players featured, or mentioned in any tweets from the All Blacks account. Others questioned the role that women are playing in the Twitter post - wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters, but not players of the game.
Even aside from the *questionable* choice of All Blacks here, the fact the NZRU ignores the players who have won five of the last six World Cups in order to suggest women's role in rugby is solely to support the men is disgusting, telling, and sadly unsurprising. https://t.co/JO3VyIWpZ0
— Squidge Rugby (@SquidgeRugby) March 8, 2022
To anyone saying "BuT tHe aLl BlAcKs ArE tHe MeN's SiDe", the All Blacks twitter account has 1m followers. It essentially acts as the main representative for all things NZ rugby because that's the brand people associate NZ rugby with.
— Linebreak Rugby 🏳️⚧️🚂✊ (@LinebreakRugby) March 8, 2022
— Mark D (@Atticus_75) March 8, 2022
Unacceptably tone deaf from the All Blacks. https://t.co/u9q2PkUMXq
— Jim Harrington #FBPE 🇮🇪 (@jimharringtonkk) March 8, 2022
Cynics might say this is just another mountain being made out of a molehill by easily-offended social media users, however it does clearly speak to a tone-deafness in perceptions towards women in professional sport. This is something we've seen clearly in rugby in this country, but it is not a problem restricted to rugby union.
UPDATE: New Zealand Rugby has apologised for the tweet, saying they 'didn't get it right'.
We didn’t get it right and we apologise – our entire rugby whānau are so proud of our @BlackFerns and all our wāhine, in everything that they do on and off the pitch.@BlackFerns @AllBlacks7s @AllBlacks @NZRugby (2/2)
— New Zealand Rugby (@NZRugby) March 9, 2022