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NZ MPs support anti-IRB stand by Samoa tweeter

Updated: October 07, 2011, 05:00


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Two New Zealand politicians have come out in support of Samoa center Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who is provisionally banned from rugby for his outspoken comments against a referee and the International Rugby Board.

Fuimaono-Sapolu wrote on Twitter that Welsh referee Nigel Owens was racist and biased after controlling Samoa's tournament-ending 13-5 loss to South Africa last week, and slammed the IRB for giving second-tier teams less rest between matches than the top-ranked teams in the World Cup.

Peter Dunne, the government's Revenue Minister, backed Fuimaono-Sapolu on Newstalk ZB radio and doubted whether the IRB would have treated England midfielder Mike Tindall the same if he'd written the same things.

Hone Harawira, the Mana Party leader, issued a press release saying the IRB were "mean-spirited old farts'' for penalizing Fuimaono-Sapolu "for daring to say what every Pacific Island player is thinking.''

Harawira said the IRB was using rugby "to make heaps of money, and pound anyone for daring to criticize them.''

"England gets caught cheating and nothing happens to them, but a Samoan gets whacked $10,000 for wearing a mouthguard with the wrong words on it,'' he said.

"England players get on the booze and bring the RWC into disrepute and nothing happens to them, but a Samoan rugby player gets hauled before the IRB for daring to say what every Pacific Island player is thinking.

"Rugby commentators criticize the referee for favoring South Africa and nothing happens to them, but a Samoan rugby player has to front the IRB for saying the same thing.''

Fuimaono-Sapolu, a qualified lawyer, was provisionally suspended when he missed his first scheduled judicial hearing on a misconduct charge on Tuesday, then got his case adjourned on Wednesday to Oct. 15 to give him more time to prepare his defense.

He was asked to refrain from commenting on social media again between now and his hearing.

Another issue Fuimaono-Sapolu raised involved allegations the IRB was be discriminatory for not honoring the second anniversary of the deadly Samoa tsunami, which fell on the same day as the Samoa-South Africa game.

He tweeted: "Minute of silence for U.S.A for 9/11. Nothing for Samoa for Tsunami. Both games played on anniversary days. Our dead not good enough?''

When another user suggested 9/11 was a better known tragedy, Fuimaono-Sapolu responded: "That's exactly what I'm talking about! that is 'racist' against Samoans because we ALL know about it!''

The IRB and Samoa Rugby Union had agreed to mark the anniversary by allowing the players to wear armbands, and a pre-match announcement on the public address system.

Asked on Twitter why he hasn't received support from the SRU, Fuimaono-Sapolu wrote: "because $$ They want it. They dont want to work hard to make SRU independent of handouts, a real business enterprise!''

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