Finally. Someone willing to call Sonny Bill Williams out

SBW is a bastard.  I’m on record as not liking people code hopping just to get another jersey on their record when they haven’t earned it by delivering at local, provincial and national level first.  But when he gave his Rugby World Championship medal to a random kid, I was quite frustrated about it.

John Roughan puts my feelings into words.

What a strange thing it was that Sonny Bill Williams did. All the previous strange things in his career have been blamed on his manager but there was nobody in Sonny Bill’s ear when he decided to give his Rugby World Cup winner’s medal away.

It was his own spontaneous gesture to a lad who had run out to the All Blacks during their victory lap and had been tackled by a Twickenham security guard. The kid was not hurt and probably not surprised to be tackled. Williams and Steve Hansen picked him up, put an arm around him and Williams steered him back to the fence where on a parting impulse he gave the kid his medal.

A trifle excessive, I thought. Also a bit demeaning for the prize the All Blacks had just won, and I wondered what his teammates thought. I also hoped the boy’s parents would realise it was a needless gesture, probably made in a moment of excitement when the man was not thinking clearly, and one he would later regret.   

I hoped they would later offer it back, which indeed they did, Williams has said. But he told them, “Nah, better he has it than it hang on my wall”. Was he modestly depreciating his generosity or did he really not want this thing?

Generosity normally bears some sort of proportionate relationship to the predicament of the recipient. If this boy was tragically disabled or had suffered some heart-rending misfortune I could understand an All Black being so moved as to give him something as precious as a World Cup winners’ medal.

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But to give it away for no reason at all suggests he really didn’t want it. Strange.

He is not alone among top sportsmen is having little interest in keeping memorabilia – but it is fairly unusual to give it away a moment after it has been draped around their neck. Insulting too. His teammates might never say whether they found it insulting but as a fan, I did.

It felt like a betrayal of our enthusiasm for their achievement and the exquisite agony of those early mornings on the couch.

I don’t know whether I’m more disappointed in Williams or the many who see it as an utterly admirable act of generosity. By the time the medal was offered back to him he might have been reading too much of their praise online to feel able to take it back. Maybe that is why the World Cup organisers gave him another. Or were they simply capitalising on a story that was playing well for Williams, the All Blacks and rugby.

Generosity is too valuable to be reduced to a public relations gesture. I don’t think Williams was making a public relations calculation at any stage, I think he was acting on his own inclinations, and they can be strange.

I wish this wasn’t on my mind.

Basically I feel he **** on the All Blacks, the team, his mates, the coaches, the support team and all the fans by showing he places so little value in the symbol of being part of a record breaking team.

And then, when offered another one to replace it, he’s like “yea, nah”.

And in some years, the kid that got that medal will be paying part of his student loan off after flogging it on TradeMe.

 

– John Roughan, A newspaper


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