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Hurricanes owner steps aside after comments controversy

August 15, 2021 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A part-owner of the Hurricanes is selling his shareholding in the Wellington-based Super Rugby franchise in the wake of controversy over social media comments which have been interpreted as racist.

Troy Bowker owns 12.5 percent of the Hurricanes through his private equity company Caniwi Capital. In a statement on the weekend, Bowker said he had accepted an offer for his shares and would quit the Hurricanes board by the end of the month.

He said his departure had been planned for months and was not connected to his comments about Ian Taylor, a tech entrepreneur.

Taylor had suggested New Zealand’s success in water-borne events at the Tokyo Olympics — sailing and rowing — might be due to the DNA New Zealanders have inherited from Polynesian navigators who crisscrossed the Pacific prior to European colonisation. He made reference to a current debate over the indigenous-Maori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa, and the objection of some, mostly right-wing politicians to its official use.

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“Our Polynesian ancestors set out across the Pacific Ocean, Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, at the same time that the Egyptians were building the pyramids and arrived here to a place they called the Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa) 600 years before a Dutchman sailed by,” Taylor said.

Bowker responded by calling Taylor’s post “another example of European NZers not being proud of their own ancestors and sucking up to the left, Maori-loving agenda.”

Bowker said Scots, Vikings and Romans were building boats “8000 years ago” and asked Taylor “what percentage Maori are you?” Taylor, a winner of a Sports Emmy for his technology which revolutionized coverage of America’s Cup sailing races, is Maori with ties to the Ngati Kahungunu and Nai Pahu people.

Bowker’s comments drew immediate criticism, and Hurricanes management distanced themselves from him.

Chairman Iain Potter said “as a part owner of the Hurricanes, Troy is entitled to a director’s role and consequently we are not in a position to control his opinions when he speaks and represents himself or his businesses outside of rugby. The Hurricanes do not support the remarks in question.”

The Hurricanes’ All Blacks scrumhalf T.J. Perenara complained of the “underlying racism” in Bowker’s comments, which he said were insulting.

“The mental, emotional, and cultural safety of our players is crucial and needs to be assured,” Perenara said. “Our supporters deserve better and should be able to back us without feeling conflicted.”

The Speaker of the New Zealand’s Parliament, Trevor Mallard — an avid Hurricanes fan — said he would not attend Hurricanes matches while Bowker was an owner or director.

Bowker defended himself by saying he didn’t imply Maori shouldn’t be proud of their ancestors.

“I was simply pointing out that Europeans should be equally as proud and that (Taylor’s) post did not do that and was essentially glorifying only Maori DNA and not European,” Bowker said. “There is nothing racist about pointing out that we should celebrate our European ancestors’ achievements as much as Maori celebrate theirs.”

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