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Martin Devlin: All Blacks jersey shouldn't be used for political purposes

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Aug 2019, 12:49PM

Martin Devlin: All Blacks jersey shouldn't be used for political purposes

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Aug 2019, 12:49PM

I do not want the All Blacks jersey to be used for political purpose, be that individual or collective. So let's deal with this (again) before  it even begins to become something that needs dealing with.

Now I've made no secret of the fact that I both like and admire TJ Perenara and in fact on this issue, not that it matters, I'm also alongside him in his support of the Ihumatao protest.

But. The All Blacks jersey is not, nor shouldn't be, a publicity vehicle for this or any other cause. The ABs are a rugby team. Let's never forget that.

They are New Zealand's team. For all of NZ, let's always remember that too.

For all his best and honourable intentions TJ got this one wrong. That's why NZR are refusing to comment on it - because they know it was but they also, in the wake of the Bledisloe Cup win, don't want to dilute the renewed feel good factor enveloping the team and fanbase.

Well that's my conspiracy theory anyway. And before it's dismissed as nothing more than that, tell me another reason then why they haven't publicly condoned his action?

Because after Kane Hames did something similar over the US Standing Rock protests NZR immediately responded by saying although they had empathy with his personal stance, the team/jersey/AB "brand" is not to be used for such purpose.

Yes the players are individuals and have a right to express their own opinions about whatever they want, but rugby is not an individual sport and our national team is not theirs so much as it's all of OURS.

The debate here is subtle and I hope I'm doing enough to properly explain it.

In my mind being in the All Blacks isn't a license for anyone to use that privilege for any individual agenda no matter how righteous it might be.

Now what say one of the team felt as strongly about Israel Folau's views as Englishman Billy Vunipola does and wrote a supportive message to him on his wristband? Immediately TJ himself would be opposed to that so how would that then work for team harmony and unity in the dressing room? 

And who then gets to decide the worthiness or cause of that or any protest?

Interestingly Josh Kronfeld, he of the peace sign headgear protest, has said this week that "wristbands are a platform for the players to express what they want to say". I disagree.

We all know this particular platform is only being used because it gets to take advantage of the power, imagery and historical status of the All Blacks to deliver that message. Do it on your own social media platforms, go public and join the protest, talk about it to whatever media outlet you want, debate the issue over dinner whatever - just don't do it within the All Black environment.

Or let's officially rewrite that mantra about no individual being bigger than the collective. No it's not the biggest deal going round right now.

But yes it needs to be dealt with before it quickly becomes one.

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