Backlash over Deaker's Sonny Bill comment

NEIL REID AND AARON LAWTON
Last updated 16:48 11/03/2012
Murray Deaker Cake
BEN WATSON/Fairfax NZ
TROUBLE: Murray Deaker.
Sonny Bill Williams
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ
MUSLIM: Sonny Bill Williams.

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All Black Sonny Bill Williams is staying out of a public row - for now - over comments broadcaster Murray Deaker made about his religion.

On his SKY TV Deaker on Sport show, the veteran launched a scathing attack on Williams, who converted to Islam in 2009.

Shortly after the February 29 show, fellow broadcaster Nathan Rarere posted online: "Murray Deaker stated last night that one of the reasons he doesn't like Sonny Bill is ... 'He is a Muslim, in a so-called Christian country, and that makes me uncomfortable'."

League fans took to an online forum with similar comments, one writing: "Deaker is obliterating Sonny Bill ... Deaker said 'I don't like that he's Muslim in a so-called Christian country'."

Deaker refused to elaborate when contacted by the Sunday Star-Times.

Sky TV said it was not in a position to release a copy of the episode without Deaker's permission. A spokeswoman said today they still had not received permission from him to release it.

Williams' manager Khoder Nasser said from Sydney today said that he and Williams were not at this stage taking the issue further.

He reiterated an earlier comment that he was disgusted at Deaker.

"This man has a history of being a bigoted redneck," he said.

"As you get older, they say you get wiser. You are closer to the grave, which gives you a sense of realism, you become humbled and more accepting of other human beings. But the older this man gets, the more bigoted he becomes."

Deaker, who seven months ago apologised for saying on air that someone was "working like a n*****', has refused to discuss his Williams remark.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Anwar Ghani said Sky and Deaker should release the programme as he would like to see it.

"It is very sad to hear somebody of his intellect can make such a comment. It is a bit unprofessional."

Former sporting stars Dion Nash and Steve Price were part of an expert panel when Deaker made his comment.

Nash said he believed Deaker "got carried away with the moment.

"What he said was he couldn't understand, he was struggling to understand where Sonny Bill Williams was coming from, and then he listed a whole lot of things ... one of the things was he was a Muslim living in a Christian country."

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Price, a former Warriors captain, was reluctant to comment. "I would ask Murray if you are going to ask anyone, he is the one who said it."

Asked on Thursday to elaborate on his stance on Williams, Deaker said: "No. I have already said it on my own TV show."

When asked if he had a problem with Muslims, Deaker replied: "No ... mate, don't go fishing."

Deaker said no one was discussing it, but comments have been posted on his Facebook page, Twitter and on a Warriors forum.

One viewer of the February 29 show wrote on Deaker's Facebook page: "To not like him because he's a Muslim in a Christian country is something altogether different and shows the true depth of racism in Aotearoa. To see the legend Steve Price squirming was embarrassing to him and to you... He should [have] walked out."

* comments have been closed on this story

- Auckland Now

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