Sonny Bill Williams will get to choose which logos he won’t allow on his uniform. (Jacky Naegelen/Reuters)
New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams looks like any other member of his team — as long as you don’t look too closely.
While Williams wears the same colors as his Auckland Blues teammates, his uniform lacks advertising patches from banks, alcohol brands and gambling companies thanks New Zealand Rugby’s decision to “accommodate” a request he made on the basis of “conscientious objection.”
“Conscientious objections need to be genuine, and we believe this is,” New Zealand Rugby executive Neil Sorensen told the BBC.
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Williams’s request was made on account of his Muslim faith, which he said, prevents him from doing sponsorship work for companies related to alcohol, tobacco, gambling and banks. (Under Islamic law, collecting interest on loans is prohibited.)
Williams appears to have already made an exemption for himself, however, in that he said he’ll continue to wear the standard uniform for when he plays for New Zealand’s famed national team, the All Blacks. The jerseys are adorned with the logo for insurance company AIG, which also collects interest on loans.
Williams didn’t comment Wednesday about the reason he isn’t objecting to the insurance company’s logo, but said simply in a statement he’s trying to “do the right thing.”
“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,” Williams said Wednesday in a statement (via the Associated Press). “As I learn more and develop a better 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 people respect that.”
Williams’s objections are relatively new. It was only this past weekend when he appeared to refuse to sport the logos for the companies in question. While he still wore his normal Auckland Blues uniform, the 31-year-old used what appeared to be Band-Aids to cover up the logo of a bank on his jersey’s collar. It was a move that drew heat from fans, including New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English.
“It is hard to understand that one guy has to behave differently than the rest,” English told the AM Show (via Stuff.co.nz) on Monday. “I don’t understand all these professional contracts, but if you’re in the team, you’re in the team.”