A man who witnessed All Black Aaron Smith slipping into a disabled toilet with a mystery woman says he regrets going public and apologises to the player.
The man, who has asked not to be identified, said he “absolutely” regretted going to the media with the story, after he and his wife and their children saw the couple at Christchurch Airport the day after an All Blacks test last month.
In an email to the Herald, the original tipster said the only organisation they had thought to report the incident to was a particular airline, as they believed the woman involved was an flight attendant or airport employee.
“We thought that was very unprofessional of her. We didn’t end up saying anything to the airline, though.”
He said he never imagined the story would “blow up this big”.
“We have had a lot of abuse since the story broke.
“It was actually my wife who wished to go to the media and it has therefore caused a lot of strain in our relationship this past week,” he said.
“I would like to formally apologise to Aaron Smith and the rugby union for reporting the story.”
Smith received a one-match suspension after the news of his bathroom meeting was made public last week.
Before a flight back home from South Africa, he gave a tearful apology in front of media; apologising to his fans, family and his partner, Teagan Voykovich.
The witness acknowledged that they had a video of the incident, but would not be releasing it publicly any time soon.
“Due to the backlash, we have chosen not to distribute the video.”
Lawyer Natalya King told The Spinoff the couple who made the recording of Smith’s toilet tryst and the outlets that broke the story may have committed an invasion of privacy.
Legally invasion of privacy was the “highly offensive” disclosure of private facts.
The closed toilet cubicle was considered a private space and Christchurch Airport was a private business that prohibited filming within its premises unless permission was granted and a location charge paid.
King said even if the airport was considered a public space that didn’t mean Smith’s sexual activity automatically lost its privacy status.
And even if Smith’s prominent All Black status put him in the public eye, according to law a person’s right to privacy could be diminished if there was legitimate public concern in the matter. This, according to the courts, covered issues like public health and safety or the conduct of the government.
She said although that might automatically mean well-known figures had a lesser right to privacy an All Black and his sex life rated at a far lower level in national importance.
Veteran Auckland public relations consultant Cedric Allan said there was little chance Smith would ever shake the infamy.
It would cost him financially, in lost potential endorsement deals, and emotionally.
“It’s up to the All Blacks’ management whether this affects his future playing career. [But] he will always be known as the All Black who did this, just like older people know [former All Black] Keith Murdoch was sent home from the  tour for punching someone.
“That’s the thing with reputation – it can take a lifetime to build and less than a second to destroy.”
Redemption could come, but it would take a long time.
A quicker journey might be to distinguish himself in another career, or do something so amazing it eclipsed his previous behaviour, Allan said.
“He’d have to save half a dozen drowning people at the beach. He is going to pay a horrendous price for this, way out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.”