Hurricanes Rugby says it does not support comments one of its part owners made about Sir Ian Taylor "sucking up to the left loving Māori agenda", but it cannot control his opinions.
Hurricanes board member Troy Bowker made comments online calling a post by Sir Ian Taylor talking about the name of Aotearoa a load of absolute nonsense. He then went on to question Sir Ian's blood quantum.
Sir Ian Taylor, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāpuhi, grew up in Raupunga in Hawke's Bay. His firm Animation Research is famous for its America's Cup and global sports graphics.
The company now has a range of resources that teach children about the technology and innovation that brought people to Aotearoa and the Polynesian navigators that crossed the ocean.
Sir Ian's post on Linkedin was in response to National leader Judith Collins' backing for a referendum on the use of the name Aotearoa for New Zealand.
He linked to a Tom Scott cartoon, which had the words: "How come NZ excels on the water in yachting, rowing, kayaking etc? Answer: Our ancestral DNA!" and said it could be a "wonderful message for Judith and her friends".
"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 (that's Aotearoa Judith) 600 years before a Dutchman sailed by, without bothering to stop, claiming this already inhabited land as his by simply adding the word "New" to the place he called home ... 'Zealand'.
"If we are going to have a debate about naming rights let's do it fully informed about the amazing feat of the Pacific Voyagers who named the whenua where they settled," the post said.
Bowker, who is also the executive chairman of Wellington-based investment company Caniwi Capital, which has a stake in the Hurricanes, called Taylor's post "a load of absolute nonsense".
"Another example of European NZers not being proud of their own ancestors and sucking up to the left Māori loving agenda. FFS. Wake up NZ," he wrote.
The Scots, Vikings and Romans were building boats "8000 years ago", his post said.
"What percentage Māori are you?," he then asked.
There has been considerable backlash online, questioning his position as a director of the Hurricanes and calling the comments racist.
@Hurricanesrugby I think I’m one of your most loyal fans, enjoyed board hospitality and been a season ticket holder but I’ve lived through tremendous damage to race relations by racist rugby administrators 40 years ago. I won’t attend another match while Bowker is on your board.— Trevor Mallard (@SpeakerTrevor) August 10, 2021
In a statement, Hurricanes Rugby chair Iain Potter said Bowker was not an employee of the Hurricanes.
"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," Potter said.
In an email Bowker doubled down on his original comments, and said he stood by everything he said.
"I did not say Māori should not be proud of their ancestors. I was simply pointing out that Europeans should be equally as proud and that his post did not do that and was essentially glorifying only Māori DNA and not European.
"There is nothing racist about pointing out that we should celebrate our European ancestors' achievements as much as Māori celebrate theirs."
Sir Ian said he was more than willing to engage in a discussion about the comments, if the other party was willing to listen. It was crazy anyone would accuse him of disavowing European history, he said.
His company was investing in educating younger New Zealanders about the Polynesian navigators because it had been an untold history for too long, he said.
"I would love to have the discussion with anybody, but I have given up talking to old people, I am 71 now and look at what we have done - we are looking at the latest climate change reports and we haven't really listened.
"I have spoken to teachers and students all over the country and the joy and inspiration that children are getting from learning the history of voyaging to Aotearoa gives me the confidence that our future is in great hands."
There have been multiple calls online for Bowker to step down from his role at Hurricanes Rugby, but Sir Ian said that would not achieve anything.
"People have their views but I would hope he might pause and take a look at Matauranga. I am not hollering for anyone to step down. People have said I should block him. I am not going to because comments like this are reminding me why it is really important to encourage a wide discussion with reasonable people to listen to more than one side of the story."
Hurricanes player TJ Perenara and former player Piri Weepu have used their platform to advocate for te reo me ona tikanga and the importance of reclaiming mātauranga Māori.
Avid Hurricanes fan Speaker Trevor Mallard took to Twitter today, vowing he would not attend any games if Bowker continued to sit on the board - and others heeded the same call.
"I think I'm one of your most loyal fans, enjoyed board hospitality and been a season ticket holder but I've lived through tremendous damage to race relations by racist rugby administrators 40 years ago.
"I won't attend another match while Bowker is on your board." Mallard tweeted.