Haden's got to go, Murray
Every now and again, a government makes a call that is so stupendously dumb that you wonder precisely what sort of magic mushrooms were being ingested when the decision was made.
The call to allow disgraced former All Black Andy Haden to remain as an Ambassador to the Rugby World Cup is such a decision.
When even the coach of the All Blacks pronounces himself "disgusted" by Haden's remarks then you know the rugby fraternity is not on the side of the former All Black captain.
Haden's crime? Twofold. One, he made the factually incorrect claim that the country's premier Super 14 franchise, The Crusaders, operates a racial selection policy. For this he has refused to apologise.
Two, he referred to rugby players of a skin colour less pallid than his own as "darkies''. Haden has said he is sorry for using the racial epithet.
Either of these is inappropriate for a Rugby World Cup Ambassador. Taken together, it's an open and shut case.
Consider the context. Next year, the rugby world heads Downunder for the 2011 RWC. New Zealand, a supposed stalwart of anti-racism and thorn in the side of many a South African government of years gone by, is hosting many nations with a multitude of skin colours and racial backgrounds.
And the cheerleader, the representative for New Zealand in this orgy of rugby mania, is a man who refers to black players as "darkies'' and reckons one of the country's own sides is racially selecting its players.
Add to that, this man not only has the mana of a former All Black captain, but he's forever associated with the unfortunate Cavaliers tour to South Africa, when Haden led a rebel tour of white New Zealanders there against the wishes of the Government.
To top it off, it's just weeks since the Rugby Union formally apologised to non-white rugby players for agreeing to send racially selected tours to South Africa in the 1980s.
You'd think that National would be able to see that this simply isn't sustainable.
Yet while Prime Minister John Key has made his displeasure clear, it seems Sports Minister and Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully can't see past the old rugby club tie on this one.
I know McCully and Haden have been mates for years, and I know McCully can't abide political correctness in any form, but this goes far beyond the fraternity of the locker room showers.
McCully claims Haden simply made a "mistake'' and shouldn't be shot for that.
I don't buy that. The use of the racial slur wasn't a "mistake''. It was a deliberate insult, and goes to the heart of Haden's true character and beliefs.
Neither is this a a matter of being "PC". It's just sheer bad taste. Not to mention inappropriate and wrong.
I thought National's political radar was a bit more sensitive than this, but in case the government needs it spelt out in words of one syllable, Haden's position as a Rugby World Cup Ambassador is untenable.
He has to go. And the longer it takes the government to realise this, the more damage it will do to its own credibility.
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