Totalsports removes Eben Etzebeth posters over 'media controversy' just days before rugby final

Eben Etzebeth looks on during the Rugby World Cup 2019. (Ashley Western, Gallo Images, MB Media, Getty Images, file)
Eben Etzebeth looks on during the Rugby World Cup 2019. (Ashley Western, Gallo Images, MB Media, Getty Images, file)

Totalsports, which is part of The Foschini Group, has decided to remove its posters of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth ahead of the Rugby World Cup final over the "media controversy" surrounding him.

"The media controversy surrounding Eben Etzebeth has been felt in our stores," the company said.

"As a brand, we don't do controversies, we do sport - so we made the decision to remove his poster. Without taking sides or passing judgment, we wanted to make sure all our customers feel comfortable in our stores."

READ | Eben Etzebeth breaks silence over alleged racist assault, claims 'biased' SAHRC has 'hidden agenda'

The move has seemingly angered numerous customers, who stated on social media that they would no longer be supporting Totalsports, which has around 280 sports goods stores nationwide.

Many said they felt Totalsports had actually chosen sides by removing the poster before the outcome of any investigation into Etzebeth.

Reaction

Sandy Bernado commented on Facebook: "Lost my support. What about innocent till proven guilty (sic). The whole of SA stands by him, now I'm sure you lost thousands of customers.."

Johan van der Bergh stated: "Which part of innocent until proven guilty do you not understand? Very disappointed that a business can decide who is guilty before any case is dealt with in court. I hope that enough people walk out the door so that you can feel it in your business results."

On Twitter, @aaardvaaark82 pointed out: "@TotalsportsSA you have clearly forgotten what @Springboks and all the fans have done for your business. I remember shopping in your stores since childhood... all good sentiments flushed away with a single tweet. Who runs your social media acc? The decision maker should be fired."

Another Facebook user Jack Abrahams said: "Totalsport you still have me as a customer. It's not easy pleasing nor offending everyone in 2019. This too shall pass."

READ | 'I was a fan', says man who alleges assault, racial abuse by Etzebeth

Etzebeth has been accused of racially abusing a fellow patron at a pub in Langebaan in August. This, as the police are investigating a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, crimen injuria and the pointing of a firearm.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was also representing the so-called Langebaan Four in an Equality Court case against Etzebeth for alleged hate speech.

The four are looking for compensation of more than R1m and want Etzebeth to apologise, to undergo anger management and racial sensitivity training, and to do community service, News24 reported. 

Etzebeth has hit back at the claims by filing strongly worded court papers in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, saying the case that the SAHRC brought against him in the Equality Court is "unlawful".

He also denied the allegations in a Facebook post when the news first broke.

Etzebeth was included in South Africa's 31-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Sport24 reported that Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus will, on Thursday, name his team for Saturday's final against England at 11:00 (SA time).

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