Thursday, April 19, 2001

Patrick Gower

Massage message grates

The Waikato University men's volleyball team has run into trouble with its student leaders after sporting T-shirts sponsored by an escort agency at the University Easter Games.

The shirts carried the slogan "Get Shagged in Horny Hamilton" on the front, and had the logo and contact details of Hamilton escort agency California Girls across the back.

The sponsorship has enraged the Waikato Students Union, which labelled it a "university sports team surviving on the earnings of prostitutes" and alleged that the sponsorship package included a "10 per cent servicing discount."

The volleyballers approached the escort agency for help with the cost of getting to the Dunedin tournament and were given the shirts and $500.

Union co-president Mecina Stanbury said it would make a formal complaint at a university meeting today.

"The university's acceptance of this sponsorship is implicit acceptance of the sale of women as sexual merchandise," she said.

"The sex industry has now become a stakeholder in the University of Waikato, which entitles the agency to use the university as a marketing tool."

Ms Stanbury said the "glorification of the sex industry" by the team degraded the reputation of the university and other "credible associated bodies involved with the games."

Team captain Chris Anderson, who is also a New Zealand volleyball representative, was unrepentant about the shirts, saying the team would wear them again if they were given the same deal.

The 22-year-old said the talk of a 10 per cent servicing discount was complete rubbish.

"We are just poor students who wanted to try any avenue possible to get down and play.

"We checked out whether we could have them as sponsors with the organisers and it was all sweet.

"I don't know what all the fuss is about and why the students' union has dragged us into this.

"Don't they have anything better to do?"

Vice-Chancellor Bryan Gould is in China and was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman did not believe the shirts embarrassed the university. The owner of California Girls, Pete Lawton, said he "had done it before and would do it all again."

He had sponsored the same team five years ago without any criticism.

"I'll just let the narrow-minded rant and rave.

"Prostitutes have been part of the community for a long time now and it is time people accepted that and what we do."

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Created: April 20, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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