Minister unwilling to enter rugby race row

By Vaimoana Tapaleao, Edward Gay

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

It is not up to the Minister of Sport to investigate allegations of racial team selection, Murray McCully says.

He said if that was the case then he would have his staff monitoring talkback radio.

"What is the allegation? The allegation is that some franchises have their own views about how they are going to select their players," Mr McCully told a press conference.

"That is disputed by some of the franchises involved and until someone producers a piece of paper to show who is right and who is wrong, I'm not going to get involved in that," he said.

His comments come after World Cup ambassador Andy Haden said that the Crusaders Super 14 franchise limited its number of Polynesian players. 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.

Mr McCully met with Haden on the weekend.

Asked if Haden had divulged his sources, Mr McCully said: No.

"That wasn't the focus of my concern, he used a term that was derogatory and caused off he needed to fix that up and apologise for it and did so," Mr McCully said.

Mr McCully compared Haden's comments to those made by broadcaster Paul Holmes when he referred to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan as a "cheeky darkie".

He said Holmes got to keep his highly paid job and Haden gets to keep his volunteer job.

The Maori Party says Haden should "cough up" the names of those in the Crusaders franchise that told him of the cap or resign as an ambassador.

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.

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.

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