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Sonny Bill Williams' Shirt Sponsor Controversy Has Taken A Somewhat Unexpected Twist

Sonny Bill Williams' Shirt Sponsor Controversy Has Taken A Somewhat Unexpected Twist
By Gavan Casey Updated

Auckland Blues and All Black inside back Sonny Bill Williams has made headlines around the world since taping over the Bank of New Zealand logo on his club jersey during his Blues debut on Saturday.

New Zealand prime minister Bill English was amongst those who criticised Williams' decision to mask the Blues' shirt sponsor on religious grounds, after SBW applied tape to the collar of his jersey during the Blues' 26-20 defeat to the Highlanders on his return from an eight-month absence.

Amidst the hoopla which surrounded the incident, it emerged that Williams, who converted to Islam in 2008 while playing in the French Top 14 for Toulon, had lodged a conscientious objection to promoting tobacco, alcohol, finance companies and gambling. The issue of usury (charging interest and fees on loans) in particular dictated that Williams felt he couldn't don the BNZ logo in good conscience. His decision to tape over it, however, caught his club totally by surprise.

Tana Umaga's Blues announced that they would be seeking a 'please explain' from the midfielder, while New Zealand Rugby released a statement which indicated they had been fully informed of Williams' decision prior to his taping of the jersey, and that this was a matter for the Blues to resolve should they so wish.

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Amongst the criticism levelled at the 31-year-old, who is the first Muslim ever to represent the All Blacks, was that he expected special treatment compared to his teammates despite being contracted to the Super Rugby franchise. Many wondered as to how the Blues could allow a marquee player like Williams to cover over sponsorship logos given the obvious logistical predicament it presents; in a nutshell, BNZ would only be receiving 14/15ths - or 22/23rds - of what they signed up for. As such, a host of pundits and fans suggested Williams' stance would not be allowed to continue.

But according to reports in New Zealand today, it's set to continue apace. Patrick McKendry writes in The New Zealand Herald that, starting with this weekend's fixture versus the Hurricanes, Williams will be given a special Blues shirt minus not only the BNZ logo on his collar, but also minus the Investec logo on his sleeves.

Investec sponsor the Super Rugby competition as a whole, and McKendry claims that they were the reason why it's taken so long for the issue to be resolved - not due to any irritation on their part, but simply down to the fact that they're based in South Africa and a different timezone.

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In fact, both Investec and BNZ are reported to be relaxed about the issue, with neither holding any objection to Williams' decision.

The dispensation will also apply to the Blues' training gear. Sonny Bill trained in front of the media today wearing a sponsorless hoodie, apparently borrowed. At Eden Park on Saturday, he'll likely take to the field for the first time in a specially-made jersey, tailored to his beliefs.

SEE ALSO: Lions Captaincy Thrown Into Doubt As Sam Warburton Suffers Nasty Injury

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