Sonny Bill Williams made headlines for covering up a bank logo on the collar of his jersey upon his return to Super Rugby. Now the New Zealand rugby star will be allowed to wear Super Rugby or All Blacks jerseys from which bank logos have been removed because he believes the practices of financial organizations conflict with his Islamic faith.
Williams has a “conscientious objection” clause in his contract with New Zealand Rugby which allows him to refuse to undertake promotional activities for banks which, he believes, contravene Islamic law by charging interest on loans.
A similar clause has been included in the contracts of other New Zealand rugby players, allowing them to refuse, according to their conscience, to wear the sponsorship logos of companies which promote alcohol, tobacco or gambling. South African cricketers Imran Tahir and Hashim Amla have similar contracts which allow them to opt out of wearing sponsorship insignia from breweries.
Williams made his first Super Rugby appearance of the season last weekend for the Auckland-based Blues and caused media speculation when he used medical tape to block out the logos of team sponsor the Bank of New Zealand.
New Zealand Rugby subsequently announced that Williams had invoked a conscientious objection clause in his contract but failed to indicate the nature of his objection. Williams on Monday said he would clarify his objection in due course.
In a statement issued through New Zealand Rugby on Wednesday, Williams said he was acting in accordance with his understanding of the Islamic faith which did not permit the charging of interest on loans. Williams has also objected to wearing the logos of Super Rugby sponsor Investec, a global financial organization.
He continues to wear the logo of the Blues’ major naming sponsor NIB, an investment group, and has not objected to playing at stadiums which have banks as naming rights sponsors
Williams said he had “nothing personal” against the sponsors he refuses to promote.
“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.
“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 failed to explain why he had worn jerseys including the banking logos in training and during promotional activities throughout the current season, including in the past week. He also did not explain why he will continue to sport the logos of insurance companies and financial institutions, including the All Blacks major sponsors AIG, which also charge interest on loans.
Williams is one of New Zealand’s highest-paid rugby players.