Muslim rugby star Sonny Bill Williams will be allowed to cover up a sponsor’s logo on his Auckland Blues shirt after the New Zealand Rugby Union agreed to his request based on his religious beliefs.
Williams last week taped up his collar to hide Bank of New Zealand logos as Islamic faith forbids financial institutions charging interest and fees on loans.
The move raised the possibility of disciplinary action, but the NZRU accommodated Williams’ request after he lodged a “conscientious objection.”
From next week, Williams will instead wear a bespoke jersey that bears the name of the children’s support service, Plunket, over where BNZ’s logo would normally be.
The Blues kit also features two Investec logos – one on each sleeve. The international specialist banking and asset company is the Super Rugby competition’s main sponsor and also has a deal in place with the NZRU.
Williams will also be allowed to cover up one of those logos – that referring to the relationship with the NZRU – but not the other, which appears on the competition logo and is compulsory on all New Zealand Super Rugby teams’ jerseys.
“I want to be clear that this is nothing personal against the BNZ or Investec,” Williams said. “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.
“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 want to thank the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for working with me through this matter over the last couple of days, and respecting my religion and accommodating my request.”
The BNZ chief executive, Anthony Healy, said: “We think this is a fantastic outcome for all.”