Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Maori Party to Haden: Cough up or step down

Andy Haden. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Andy Haden. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rugby World Cup ambassador Andy Haden should reveal who told him about a cap on Polynesian players at the Crusaders, or resign, the Maori Party says.

Maori Party MP Te Uroroa Flavell said if the cap exists then the Canterbury Crusaders franchise are guilty of nothing short of institutionalised racism.

"If Andy does not have the proof, and he can't substantiate his claims, then his integrity needs to be questioned including his role as a Rugby World Cup ambassador, Mr Flavell said.

Asked if he thought there should be a Maori World Cup ambassador, Mr Flavell said yes.

"We're calling for another person to be added because it is glaringly obvious that none of them are Maori," Mr Flavell said.

He said this year was the centenary of Maori rugby, yet the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) had chosen not to appoint a Maori ambassador.

Mr Flavell said the NZRU had let down Maori by not supporting the women's sevens team and by not giving the New Zealand Maori any games last year.

He said the NZRU Maori board had also let Maori down by not agreeing to apologise for the exclusion of Maori players from All Blacks tours to South Africa during the Apartheid era.

Meanwhile, Haden will stay on in his role after a ruling was made that he had made a mistake, apologised - and that that was the end of the matter.

Haden's comments last week - that the Crusaders Super 14 franchise limited its number of Polynesian players - sparked heated debate nationwide.

His use of a racial term many regard as offensive sparked even more controversy.

"Once they've recruited three, that's it. That's their ceiling. Three darkies - no more," he said on the Deaker on Sport TV panel show.

Rugby World Cup minister Murray McCully, who faced calls to sack Haden as one of six world cup ambassadors, met the former All Black yesterday.

Mr McCully announced that Haden would keep his role but said it was not favourable to have to be addressing issues such as suggested racism or the use of language, instead of rugby.

"Look, if we were to take out everyone who made a mistake and shoot them, we'd sooner or later run out of people to do things in this country," the minister said.

"Mr Haden accepts that his use [of] a particular term caused offence. He has - without any prompting from me - already apologised for causing offence ... That, as far as I am concerned, is the end of the matter."

In a statement yesterday, Haden again apologised for his use of the word "darkies" and said he had realised it had caused great offence.

"On a television sports programme last week, I used a term that has caused significant public comment in recent days - it was never my intention to cause offence."

However, Haden did not apologise for suggesting there was a Polynesian quota.

Last night, he did not want to comment further.

At a media conference in Auckland City yesterday, Mr McCully separated himself from the quota issue, saying the individual Super 14 franchises dealt with player selections and that was a debate he was not prepared to take part in.

Asked if he had seen any proof that might suggest Haden's comments to be true, he said it was not his role to come between him and the Crusaders.

"I've got plenty of things to do and no energy for that. I'm not responsible for the Crusaders' selection policy.

"If someone came along and suggested that there was something vastly improper or unlawful taking place, in a sporting franchise, then that would be a different matter.

"But there is a debate here that I do not need to get involved in. The Government's focus has been on the offence that was taken and it's pretty understandable ... and that's what we're addressing."

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