Michael Burgess: The uncomfortable truth about Israel Adesanya’s rant

OPINION:

Maybe Israel Adesanya was half right.

Adesanya, as he tends to do, raised some interesting points in his shoot from the hip soliloquy last Wednesday.

Not for the first time, the UFC star was, among other things, pointing to a class divide across the New Zealand sport system, where some codes are treated much more favourably than others.

It might be uncomfortable to believe – but is it true?

Probably.

There always has been that perception, and it hasn’t been helped by the recent MIQ related dramas within our sporting sector.

Adesanya launched into an extended rant on his YouTube channel, angry about the treatment of compatriot Dan Hooker.

Hooker’s preparations for his big fight in Las Vegas on Sunday against Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 was severely compromised by his inability to train, with a couple of gym-based lockdown bubbles being shut down by police.

Given what was at stake, professional athletes such as Hooker and his team would have been unlikely to take any risks or put the wider public health in danger.

They were focused on finding a solution in a difficult situation, but were unable to form their own bubble – despite being able to in last year’s lockdown – due to a change in interpretation by police.

That was the spark for Adesanya’s ire, but his main focus was on the perceived inequality of the MIQ system, with some sports being given red carpet treatment and others seemingly ignored.

Adesanya is a colourful character, whose spiel covered a few tangents, but his underlying point appeared valid.

Why are some professional athletes, especially those in global sports who need to travel, seemingly not being assisted in any way, while rugby, cricket and netball appear to be dining at an unlimited MIQ buffet?

Given the MIQ crisis, it hasn’t been well received that the Bangladesh cricket team are visiting twice this year (utilising 70 MIQ rooms) and the Netherlands’ squad will occupy 35 rooms next March.

You can understand Adesanya’s fury.

Whatever you think of UFC, he is box office gold and a title fight here would fill Spark Arena, while ardent fans of the Dutch cricket team would struggle to fill a corner dairy.

However, there are mitigating factors.

The MIQ system is constrained, and the government’s decision not to create a separate quarantine facility for professional sportsmen was a missed opportunity.

The visits by overseas cricket, rugby and netball teams are approved due to a judged economic impact, and the tours by the All Blacks, Black Caps, Black Ferns et al are booked months in advance, whereas individual athletes often have more ad hoc schedules.

But there is still an unmistakable sense of blue collar versus white collar, best epitomised by the Warriors’ plight.

Nine fully vaccinated staff members are stuck in Australia, along with all of their Kiwi players, and they have been there since January 3.

They were unable to book MIQ spots earlier this year – because Australia was a green zone country – then were stuck in limbo when the transtasman bubble closed.

The government and Sport New Zealand have been unable to facilitate any assistance, leaving them stranded and forced to rely on the public MIQ lottery.

But imagine, for a minute, if it was the All Blacks stuck in a similar situation? Or the Crusaders, the Blues or the Chiefs? Or perhaps the Silver Ferns or the Northern Mystics?

Would things be different? Almost certainly. Calls would be made; urgent meetings would be convened and a solution would be found.

But league simply doesn’t resonate in the same way, given its working-class background, supporter base and lack of influence in the corridors of power.

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