Sir Ian Taylor urges Hurricanes fans not to boycott games, thanks Troy Bowker for 'ill-informed' race comments

Sir Ian Taylor doesn't want Kiwis to boycott Hurricanes games after the rugby team's part-owner became embroiled in controversy over his response to one of the animation entrepreneur's social media posts. 

Sir Ian, well-known for his production of television and sports graphics, last week posted a cartoon to LinkedIn which suggested New Zealand did well in ocean sports because of "our ancestral DNA". 

The entrepreneur wrote that Polynesian navigators arrived in Aotearoa long before Europeans and any debate about the country's name should be done with recognition of "the amazing feat of the Pacific Voyagers who named the whenua where they settled". It came as National backed calls for a referendum on the country's name. 

Troy Bowker, the executive chairman of Caniwi Capital, which has a stake in the Hurricanes rugby team, replied by accusing Sir Ian of "sucking up to the left Māori​-loving agenda" and questioning "what percentage" Māori​ he was.

His comment has been widely criticised online, while Hurricanes star TJ Perenara said they had "underlying racism" and were "insulting". Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard said he wouldn't attend Hurricanes games while Bowker was on the board and Matthew Tukaki, the Chair of the National Māori​ Authority, said he should step down.

Yet, despite the public's condemnation of Bowker, Sir Ian told The AM Show on Thursday he isn't angry with the businessman, but instead thankful as it has provided an opportunity to discuss Polynesian voyages and inform Kiwis about them. 

"I am really concerned about the response to this," he said. "From my perspective, if I look at what Troy has said, one of the ways we could look at it, we could get angry, or we could look at how he actually arrived at this view in the first place."

"Where I started was sharing the story of Pacific voyaging, which is the most incredible story, something I have only discovered now that I am 71. I came through a whole education system where I never learnt about celestial navigation [and] the exploration of the amazing Polynesian navigators across the Pacific Ocean."

Until now, Sir Ian said, he hadn't been able to talk about waka hourua - the craft that first brought people to New Zealand -  in media or at schools, like he will do later on Thursday. His Animation Research has set up a project called Mātauranga that teaches children about Polynesian voyagers' migration.

"So thank you Troy. It took something like this to bring the debate into a discussion mode, not a fight. I don't think we should be angry. I am not angry at Troy, I just think he is ill-informed."

He is also opposed to Kiwis boycotting the Hurricanes games as people shouldn't "desert your team because of some ill-informed comment of the guy who owns you". 

"What worries me is now the move that says let's boycott the games, let's get him off the board. Let's just actually step back and be confident in our stories, be comfortable and stop the division," Sir Ian said. 

"I wouldn't use the word racism, I use ill-informed. Troy Bowker is ill-informed. Leave him where he is. He should stay on the board, they need his money. The people threatening to boycott, the best thing they can do is actually turn up on mass to support that multi-cultured team that is the Hurricanes. Turn up."

Sir Ian said this was a "really good example of cancel culture". 

"What Troy did was he took half of my story, which is we should be celebrating the Polynesian voyagers, cancelled my full argument which was alongside the stories of Captain Cook, Abel Tasman, the whalers who came here, and our great ocean sailors, the Petes and the Blairs, that is my whole story. He divided it and said what you are doing is ignoring your European ancestry and that split it."

The entrepreneur told The AM Show that it was better for the team to "take his money", for fans to "go to the game" and "let him sit up there by himself". 

In a statement, Bowker told Newshub on Wednesday that with regards to his association with the Hurricanes, "my views are my own and nothing to do with rugby". 

"I regularly make political and business comments on issues that I feel need to be said. These are my own views," the businessman said. "My exchange with [Sir] Ian Taylor was in response to his politically driven LinkedIn post regarding the debate about using the name Aotearoa and questioning Judith Collins motives."

"He posted a cartoon that attempted to justify the NZ Olympic success in water sports by reference to Māori​ sailing achievements that are in our DNA."

Bowker said there was "no doubt" Sir Ian's post was "political in nature, hence my response". He told Newshub he pointed out the post "was a load of nonsense" and we should "be proud of our ancestors whether they are European or Māori​". 

"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."

He doesn't believe there is anything racist about his comments and stands by them. 

"The other point I would add is the importance of freedom of speech. If my opinion offends someone, let’s debate the issue rather than open season calls for 'cancellation' of the opinion.

"NZ as a country has to grow up and encourage debate not shutting down opinions because some people don’t like the opinion."

Sir Ian told The AM Show that he has also been critical of Collins' opponents. 

"Somebody grabbing hold of that says it is political, who thinks I am attacking Judith, but ignores the fact that I did the same with Jacinda with the incredibly dumb MIQ system. Politicians are political and if you start to question them, then the politics comes into it."

Bowker's LinkedIn appears to have been taken offline, while Caniwi Capital's website is also unavailable. 

Hurricanes Rugby chair Ian Potter has made it clear Bowker isn't an employee and opinions can't be controlled. 

"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.