What do you think of Andy Haden's claims that the Crusaders have a 'race ceiling' on their Super 14 squad?
Former All Blacks captain Andy Haden is refusing to resign as a rugby World Cup ambassador as a meeting looms with Sports Minister Murray McCully over his explosive "darky" remarks.
Mr McCully has called a meeting with Haden over the weekend after his allegations that the seven-time Super rugby champions the Crusaders have a racially-based recruitment policy.
"Once they've recruited three, that's it. That's their ceiling. Three darkies... no more," said Haden, who played 117 matches for the All Blacks between 1972-85 including 41 tests.
"In the Crusaders manual, there it is, it's enshrined in their articles, and they've stuck by that. And they know damn well that that's the case. And it's worked."
The comments, during a panel discussion on Sky TV's Deaker on Sport show about the "browning" of New Zealand rugby, drew a terse response from Prime Minister John Key today.
"My view on that is that the comments are not only factually incorrect, they are also offensive."
Mr Key wouldn't call for his resignation, saying Haden and Mr McCully would have a discussion over the weekend and "see where that leads".
Haden is one of six government-appointed ambassadors for next year's World Cup in New Zealand, along with Jonah Lomu, Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, David Kirk and Andrew Mehrtens.
Asked if he would resign, Haden told TV3: "I've always had opinions, this is just another one. No, I don't think I'll be resigning."
Asked if he would apologise, Haden said: "What would I apologise for? That's unfair to apologise for something that's true."
Haden claimed two former All Blacks had contacted him today supporting his claims, and saying the racial quota rule had previously been raised by Crusaders staff in conversation. Haden claimed Crusaders staff had told him of the "quota" rule.
He also slammed the "politically correct" reaction to his comments and said terms like "coconut" and "hori" were okay if used in a friendly way.
"Used in the right context, and in jest, and without any malicious intent, there's no malice in those sorts of things.
"I had no problem at all being called a honky or a whitey by guys that I would call a darky and they don't care either. Do you really think that's a terribly bad thing?"
Prime Minister John Key has labelled Haden's racial quota claims about New Zealand's most successful rugby franchise as "factually incorrect" and "offensive".
The PM was questioned by media when in Auckland today about the growing controversy over former All Black Haden's claims that the Crusaders have a policy of limiting the number of Polynesian players in their teams to just three.
Mr Key said Haden was meeting Sports Minister Murray McCully in Auckland this afternoon about Haden's role as an ambassador to next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
He added that Haden's use of the word "darkies" to describe Polynesian players "was not alright".
The PM said it was up to McCully and Haden to sort out a "pathway" forward. While he emphasised he didn't want to pre judge that meeting, he was clearly upset over Haden's remarks which were made on a sports show on national television on Wednesday night.
"My view on that is that the comments are not only factually incorrect but they are also offensive," he said.
Haden has been criticised for not being able to back up his claims with facts around players recruited and within the successful Crusaders environment.
The Greens this morning added to the pressure for Haden to be sacked as a Rugby World Cup ambassador.
Party sports spokesman Kevin Hague said Haden was a "poor choice" as an ambassador due to his involvement in the 1996 Cavaliers rebel tour of South Africa, and his comments on the Crusaders meant McCully had no option but to remove him.
"These ambassadors should be people we all respect and have pride in, and Andy Haden clearly doesn't meet that standard."
''Mr Haden’s latest unwise comments have created quite a stir but perhaps of equal concern is his attitude to the recent apology to Maori players. Mr Haden regards the NZRU’s apology to Maori as 'a waste of time'.
''Giving everyone a fair go is one of the most basic values we hold as New Zealanders. How about replacing Haden with someone who exemplifies those values, like Graeme Mourie, who took a brave stand against racism, when people like Haden were condoning and profiting from it?"
A Fairfax analysis of New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises reveals that the Blues have 19 Pacific Islanders and one Maori in their ranks, the Chiefs nine Islanders and five Maori, the Hurricanes seven Islanders and four Maori and the Highlanders have four Islanders and one Maori.
The Crusaders have three Pacific Islanders and four Maori players in their current squad. In past seasons, they have had higher numbers but most years have almost always had more players than the quota number claimed by Haden.
"BROWNING OF NZ RUGBY"
The claims were made in a panel discussion by former All Black Andy Haden on The Deaker Show on Sky TV on Wednesday night. Other panel members were former All Black Chris Laidlaw and former Waikato and Springboks player Kevin Putt.
The topic was "the browning of New Zealand rugby".
Haden said "it [the topic] was not a big issue in Christchurch".
"Once they've recruited three, that's it. That's their ceiling. Three darkies, no more.
"In the Crusaders manual, there it is, it's enshrined in their articles and they've stuck by that. And they know damn well that that's the case. And it's worked."
Haden stood by his comments on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon this morning but softened slightly, saying he was referring only to Polynesian players, not Maori.
He said he had no doubt the Crusaders had the policy but admits he was overstating the case when he said it was written in stone.
On Newstalk ZB, Haden said: "No, I don't regret it. I think it needs debating. Everyone gets very PC about this but the reality is the Crusaders have a different mix from everyone else and there's got to be a reason for that."
He added his accusation was provoked by discussion on a chapter in Laidlaw's book in which the author examined the differences between the Crusaders and Hurricanes, who have a heavy Polynesian mix.
"I'm aware that they have people in the franchise who have discussed this selection method, not including Polynesians, particularly across the academy," Haden told Newstalk ZB.
"Whilst somewhat facetiously I said it was in writing and chiselled into tablets and brought in on horses in saddlebags before matches, that was taking a bit of light-hearted look at it.
"But I know that subject is debated on a regular basis at the Crusaders."
Haden said he stood by his "sources" from within the Crusaders organisation who had told him unbidden of the racial recruitment policy, but had no interest in revealing their identities.
He said he only made the allegation because "I had discussed it with members of Crusaders franchise before".
He said he would be prepared to swear in a court of law "that I have discussed that, and I didn't bring the subject up. It was volunteered to me by someone from the Crusaders franchise".
Haden's comments have attracted dismay from current and former Crusaders-connected personnel.
Current Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder said he had been involved with the Crusaders a long time, and had never seen any evidence Haden was right.
It was unfortunate the comments had been made because they brought the game into disrepute and hurt people and reputations, he said.
Haden should front up on his source if he was making such wild claims, Blackadder said.
The Crusaders team, beaten in the semifinals by the Bulls last weekend, included Pacific Islanders Kahn Fotuali'i, Robbie Fruean and Ti'i Paulo, as well as players with Maori ancestry - Dan Carter, Sean Maitland, Zac Guildford, Thomas Waldrom, Tim Bateman and Daniel Bowden.
Two other prominent Maori players - Corey Flynn and Isaac Ross - were unavailable through injury.
Steve Tew and Hamish Riach, the two chief executives who have guided the Crusaders over the past 15-years said yesterday they were bewildered by the claims.
Riach was shocked by the allegation. "It's completely untrue and utterly bizarre." he said. "I don't know why he would say something like that.
"It concerns me that such completely untrue claims are being made and I would expect that Andy would tell us who he's talking to here [in Christchurch] if the story is to go any further.
"It is such a preposterous claim that it needs to stop right now."
Asked if he would seek an apology, Riach said: "If he doesn't put up or shut up we will seek one, absolutely.
Tew, speaking at a press conference after a board meeting of the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday, gave an angry response to Haden's claims, describing them as "insulting".
During his six years as the chief executive of the Crusaders, there was never any mention of race in any discussion about team selection, he said.
"It was always picking players of the best ability."
Riach said the franchise had nothing formal or informal about the race of rugby players in the Crusaders' selection processes.
He said he had not bothered to look through the squads of recent years to count the number of Polynesian and Maori players.
"I've done nothing like that. I'm not taking any notice of what the squad looks like.
"This story shouldn't be about checking the race of players of the past because that gives the story some oxygen it doesn't deserve. There is no policy."
At least 10 of this year's Crusaders squad contained players with Maori or Polynesian blood.
Tew said he believed Haden's comments had no foundation and were inflammatory.
"Given the person that is making the remarks, though, it does not surprise me."
Haden remained unbowed about Tew's.
"The only effect was to say I agree with what Laidlaw has written in his book, that there is a policy and obviously the Crusaders are different from others."
Haden also said he felt no need to prove his accusations.
"It goes as far as it's gone as far as I'm concerned," he said. "Why do I need to verify it? What I did was discuss the issue pretty openly…I absolutely stand by the discussion I've had with more than one person from that franchise about that subject."
-By MARC HINTON, MICHAEL FOX, DUNCAN JOHNSTONE and MARTIN KAY of Stuff.co.nz, KEVIN TUTTY of The Press, along with additional material from NZPA.
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