Outrage after Totalsports announces removal of Eben Etzebeth posters
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* This story has been updated
Johannesburg - Social media users have reacted in outrage to Totalsports's announcement that it would be removing posters of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth from its stores following media controversy around him.
Totalsports on Tuesday morning released a statement on its social media statement, saying: "The media controversy surrounding Eben Etzebeth has been felt in our stores. As a brand, we don’t do controversies, we do sport. We made the decision to remove his poster.
"Without taking sides/passing judgement [sic], we wanted to ensure all our customers feel comfortable in our stores."
The media controversy surrounding Eben Etzebeth has been felt in our stores. As a brand, we don’t do controversies, we do sport. We made the decision to remove his poster.
Without taking sides/passing judgement, we wanted to ensure all our customers feel comfortable in our stores
— Totalsports (@TotalsportsSA) October 28, 2019
The sportswear company later issued a more detailed statement, explaining that the decision was taken a month ago as a way to "distance the brand from the media controversy surrounding Etzebeth".
“We realise that our customers have varied views and respect the fact that there remains unresolved debate. This is in no way an indictment on any actions that Eben may or may not have taken. We would have applied the same reasoning to any other sportsperson involved in any controversy,” Jonathan Stein, head of Totalsports.
"We have always and will continue to support our national teams as proud South Africans. As we head towards a very important weekend, we are #strongertogether."
Etzebeth has been accused of being part of an alleged race-based assault in Langebaan, just days before the Springbok World Cup announcement.
Four people alleged Etzebeth and a group of other men assaulted, pistol-whipped and racially abused them early on a Sunday morning.
It is also alleged that he called 42-year-old Enver Wilsnach a “hotnot”.
Following this, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) announced it would be taking Etzebeth to the Equality Court, a move the rugby player is challenging in the South Gauteng High Court.
Etzebeth is part of the Springboks team currently taking part in the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The company's statement was met with massive outrage on social media, with many tweeps vowing to boycott the store over the move:
— Miranda (@Miranda_8766) October 29, 2019
I will be boycotting your store. Perhaps the feeling you get is poor sales in general and you are blaming this on a solitary individual. Well done! AS for ALL customers, your feeling may get just that more apparent!
— James has a say... (@james28340136) October 29, 2019
I will NEVER support you again!
— Jan Cronje (@jancronje) October 29, 2019
Without taking sides? Seems you're just looking for division like Lesufi. My question to you is if Eben is found to be innocent will you be issuing a formal apology or maybe just hope people forget? You have lost my support in the future.
— TrotseAfrikanerBoer (@TheCallOfJurie) October 29, 2019
Not all social media users were outraged at the move, some praised the company for taking a stand against alleged racism.
You're going to feel a backlash from racists but you are not wrong for distancing yourself from (allegations of) racism. The full humanity of POC is our collective responsibility. Not managing controversy (in the form of allegations of racism). #totalsports✊🏻 https://t.co/AWrSN2Gw06
— Sam Beynon #FreeKanyaCekeshe (@BeynonSammy) October 29, 2019
— African (@ali_naka) October 29, 2019