Dunno what to make of the fuss about the Maori basketball tournament that became the stuff of a Waitangi Day controversy.
Perhaps there’s some confusion about the rules and how they should be interpreted.
This is appropriate for a Waitangi Day controversy because the Treaty of Waitangi – clause two, anyway – is most certainly open to all sorts of interpretation.
It is understandable therefore that a spin doctor in the office of Sports Minister Jonathan Coleman opted to decline comment rather than be lured into denouncing anything that might involve racially discriminatory rules being enforced against non-Maori.
The spin doctor would have recognised that our Government tolerates discrimination against non-Maori, in the spirit of regarding indigenous citizens as special, and so this was an occasion when it was best to stay silent.
The Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, had the good sense to remain silent too, by declining interviews, although she did make some namby-pamby remarks in a written statement.
These have been put on the record by the NZ Herald:
“I’m hoping organisers can keep talking with those affected so this can be sorted out because it’s the kids who are missing out,” she said in a statement.
“Sports codes who wish to grow a sport and strengthen networks within ethnic communities aren’t new – the Warriors sponsor the Ethnic Rugby League competition and New Zealand’s Ethnic Football Festival is a nationwide tournament.
“The Nga Hau E Wha Maori Squash tournament is also hugely popular, the biggest in New Zealand with players from all ethnic backgrounds welcome.”
However, she cautioned that she did not have “all the facts about this issue”.
“The commission has not received a formal complaint from those affected.”
A subsequent Herald report puts us in the picture about what is being claimed and denied.
The row erupted after coach Andrew McKay claimed he was denied entry to the National Maori Basketball Tournament in Rotorua because he is Pakeha.
Mr McKay – who coached last year’s winning under-15 Ngati Whakaue team – said his application to coach an under-17s girls team at this year’s tournament was declined.
A clause that all coaching and management personnel must state whakapapa to an iwi was added to the online entry forms after he had applied, he said.
A second application was then made for the girls to be coached by Ngati Whakaue descendant Richard Wharerahi, but that too was declined, Mr McKay said.
Not so, says Jeff Green, vice-president of the Rotorua Basketball Association, which organises the tournament.
But it’s fair to say there are race-based rules and players have to be Maori to enter.
Mr Green said the Maori tournament was for iwi- and hapu-based teams, and players not linked to an iwi or hapu could apply individually and be placed into teams.
So what’s the problem?
Mr Green said Mr McKay wanted to keep his girls together, “and that’s not the whanaungatanga of Maori basketball”.
Whanaungatanga? What the fuck is that?
Let’s go with this translation:
1. (noun) relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.
Alf is bewildered. How – exactly – can this be invoked to give McKay’s team the bum’s rush?
But at least McKay’s ethnic credentials – or lack of them – did not come into considerations.
Not according to Green, anyway.
Coaches and referees did not have to state Maori lineage, he said.
“Coaches, administration, referees can be non-Maori, because obviously there’s not enough of those types of people available,” he said. “We have a number of Pakeha coaching teams … In fact we’ve got an Asian coach coaching one of the Maori teams, so no one is being excluded because they’re non-Maori.”
Trouble is, this doesn’t square with remarks from tournament director Sue Pene reported here.
Mrs Pene said non-Maori personnel were excluded because they wanted to encourage more Maori into coaching and refereeing positions.
Let’s note that other teams were disallowed, too.
Mr Green said the number of teams had doubled from last year, with 90 teams taking part this year, and organisers had to turn down 11 other teams because they had too many.
McKay is standing by his comments, saying he received an email declining entry because he was not Maori.
Alas, he said he was unable to provide the email.
He went on to claim the rules had initially said only players had to state their whakapapa, but after his application, organisers sent back new rules “with a new clause put in”.
He did not want his team members to be split up and assigned to new teams in order to enter, he said.
“I don’t know if it’s a personal thing or not,” he said. “It’s not about, to me, a black or white issue. It’s about how kids are missing out who were entitled to play. They met the criteria.”
But one thing is for sure.
The rules are racist.
Rotorua Basketball Association president Darrell Pene said the rule change was to make it clear only New Zealand Maori players were allowed to enter, after there were inquiries from Cook Island Maori.
So the rules don’t only discriminate against non-Maori.
They discriminate against non-indigenous Maori too.
This suggests Maori born in Australia – let’s say – would be ineligible too.
Quite right. The buggers would be bound to bring Aussie attitudes with them. There’s no place for that sort of thing here.