At first blush it seemed that champion boxer Joseph Parker only wanted to talk with Maori and Pasifika boys.

The boxing champion's planned motivational talk at Whanganui High School had the backing of both the school's principal and its board chairman.

They said Parker had wanted it that way and they were comfortable.

Only Maori and Pasifika boys would attend as Parker felt he could connect with that demographic.


Then came the outcry.

Social media lit up with accusations of racism and sexism.

Many non-Maori or Pasifika boys - and perhaps girls for that matter - idolise the Kiwi champion and would have relished the chance to hear him speak.

Parker's camp has made it clear it was not their stipulation about who should make up the student audience.

The school decided to specify who should have the chance to attend the closed session, figuring on capturing a section of their roll who might not be fully engaged with the more formal curriculum.

One could argue it's not unreasonable that a man with expertise with a particular demographic addresses only those boys and their fathers. Issues within Maori and Pacific Island communities are not always the same as issues in other homes.

And his talk is a serious motivational opportunity - not just the chance for fans to see their hero and grab an autograph.

So why not simply advertise the event as catering to the needs of Maori and Pasifika boys, but open to all?


Given the boxing champion's popularity, it was obvious others would want to attend.

While it is true that many social and educational programmes are specifically targeted at sectors of the community, this is not generally at the exclusion of others.

That's the debate here - exclusion, no matter how seemingly justified, goes against the grain, and Whanganui High School should understand that.