All Blacks and Hurricanes star TJ Perenara has labelled 'sucking up to Māori' comments made by one of the club's board members as "insulting," and said he would be seeking answers.
Troy Bowker accused animation entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor of "sucking up to the left Māori loving agenda" in a LinkedIn post in response to National leader Judith Collins' backing for a referendum on the use of the name Aotearoa for New Zealand.
Bowker, executive chairman of Wellington-based investment company Caniwi Capital, called the post "absolute nonsense," before questioning Sir Ian's blood quantum.
"Another example of European NZers not being proud of their own ancestors and sucking up to the left Māori loving agenda. FFS. Wake up NZ."
Perenara has since called out the comments in a Twitter thread.
"Troy Bowker's comments with their underlying racism are insulting. I've begun conversations with other players and management, and expect these conversations to continue over the coming days," he posted.
"As with other franchises, Hurricanes players past and present have come from a range of different backgrounds. Our collective identities have long provided us with a source of strength and pride.
"The mental, emotional, and cultural safety of our players is crucial and needs to be assured. Our supporters deserve better and should be able to back us without feeling conflicted.
"Right now I can't see how these things can happen if the status quo is maintained, and am seeking answers as to what the next steps are. Tūngia te ururua kia tupu, whakaritorito te tupu o te harakeke. Mauri ora.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes Rugby said it does not support Bowker's comments but it cannot control his opinions.
In a statement, Hurricanes Rugby chair Iain Potter said Bowker was not an employee of the Hurricanes.
"As a part owner of the Hurricanes, Troy is entitled to a director's role and consequently, we are not in a position to control his opinions when he speaks and represents himself or his businesses outside of rugby. The Hurricanes do not support the remarks in question," Potter said.
In an email Bowker doubled down on his original comments, and said he stood by everything he said.
"I did not say Māori should not be proud of their ancestors. I was simply pointing out that Europeans should be equally as proud and that his post did not do that and was essentially glorifying only Māori DNA and not European.
"There is nothing racist about pointing out that we should celebrate our European ancestors' achievements as much as Māori celebrate theirs."
Sir Ian said he was more than willing to engage in a discussion about the comments, if the other party was willing to listen. It was crazy anyone would accuse him of disavowing European history, he said.
His company was investing in educating younger New Zealanders about the Polynesian navigators because it had been an untold history for too long, he said.
"I would love to have the discussion with anybody, but I have given up talking to old people, I am 71 now and look at what we have done - we are looking at the latest climate change reports and we haven't really listened.
"I have spoken to teachers and students all over the country and the joy and inspiration that children are getting from learning the history of voyaging to Aotearoa gives me the confidence that our future is in great hands."
There have been multiple calls online for Bowker to step down from his role at Hurricanes Rugby, but Sir Ian said that would not achieve anything.
- With RNZ