Siya Kolisi book controversy: Publisher insists they have done nothing wrong

Rachel and Siya Kolisi. Image credit: Twitter/Siya Kolisi

The publisher of Siya Kolisi: Against All Odds maintains that they have done nothing wrong and that unauthorised biographies are “hardly unusual.”

Speaking to Sport24, Jonathan Ball’s publishing director Jerome Boraine said the group has published other unauthorised biographies of prominent individuals such as President Cyril Ramaphosa and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

‘Save Siya’s Story’

Earlier this week, Rachel Kolisi, the wife of Springbok Rugby World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, took to Instagram to voice her unhappiness about a revised version of the biography.

Using the hashtag #SaveSiyasStory, she said the Siya Kolisi story is his to tell. “Siya has gone through so many struggles, some you might know about and some you have no idea.

“But the story is HIS to tell. And I would appreciate your help on calling this out for what it is – WHITE MEN benefiting off the back of a BLACK MAN,” she wrote.

However, Boraine maintained on Friday that Jonathan Ball will not withdraw the book. “As publisher, Jonathan Ball believes we have done nothing wrong. Unauthorised biographies are a well-recognised literary genre. Publishers do it all over the world and is focused especially on sports stars, politicians and celebrities,” he added.

Offer declined

Boraine said they made an offer to the couple in 2018, but they did not take it up. Jonathan Ball subsequently opted to go ahead with an unauthorised biography.

Kolisi said they couldn’t stop the publisher. “We HAD an agent at the time who advised us not to take it further, and legally we had no foot to stand on.” She further said Kolisi has not benefitted from the biography and that there is an “actual book told by him on the way.”

“We want @jonathanballpublishers to stop printing any and all copies of this book, book stores and online sites not to support the selling of these books. Remove any and ALL marketing material,” Kolisi demanded.

In August last year, Siya Kolisi similarly distanced himself from the unauthorised biography in an Instagram post. “To end the confusion: The book published about me with my name on the cover wasn’t written by me or produced with my approval or even knowledge,” he wrote.

There was also a social media blowback against Exclusive Books’ attempt to promote the book on Twitter in November last year, days after the Springboks had won the Rugby World Cup.

“We are giving away 3 copies of Siya Kolisi: Against All Odds. To enter, let us know what you thought of the Rugby World Cup Final, using just emoji’s!” Exclusive Books tweeted. It eventually deleted the tweet.

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