Crusaders acknowledge calls to change name after Christchurch terrorist attack

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

The Crusaders have acknowledged calls to change their name in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack, and say they will consult with the Muslim community at an appropriate time.

The heinous murder of 50 Muslims, with another 50 persons injured, by a right-wing extremist last week prompted the issue of the Crusaders’ name to resurface in New Zealand.

The Crusaders’ name is a reference to the medieval Crusades, which were a series of religious wars between 1095 and 1492, largely in the eastern Mediterranean, between Christian and Muslim armies over control of holy sites.

At the outset of Super Rugby in 1996, the Canterbury-based franchise adopted the Crusaders name, with a sword-bearing knight on its insignia. Horse riders armed with swords still circle the field in Christchurch as part of pre-match entertainment.

The Highlanders-Crusaders match has been cancelled. Photo: Getty ImagesSimilar to USA sporting team names with derogatory Native American nicknames, the Crusaders’ name has been raised as “problematic” in New Zealand over the years.

But in the wake of the terrorist incident on Friday where Muslims were targeted in their house of prayer, there has been commentary for the Crusaders to finally ditch the name.

In an interview with New Zealand TV, Crusaders chief executive Colin Mainsbridge said the discussion was “appropriate” and the issue would be addressed as a suitable time.

"The first thing for us is things are still fairly raw," Mansbridge told TVNZ.

"We're in a state of shock. We'll acknowledge the feedback we've had. It is appropriate.

"[But] rugby in the context of what's happened is pretty hard to sort of elevate this conversation at the moment.”

"There's a lot of emotion going around in terms of conversation at the moment.

"We've heard it, we've heard the feedback, and we do want to have a conversation about it.”

The Crusaders later issued a statement, with Mainsbridge saying while the the time isn't right for the team name issue to be discussed, they will do so when appropriate and include the Muslim community in those discussions.

"Like all New Zealanders, the Crusaders team and organisation are deeply shocked by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. This is bigger than rugby and we’re absolutely heartbroken for our wider community, which is where our thoughts are,” Mainsbridge said in the statement.

"In terms of the Crusaders name, we understand the concerns that have been raised. For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community. What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch on Friday; our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.

"In our view, this is a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all of the feedback that we are receiving, however, we also believe that the time for that is not right now. Emotions are very raw and real at the moment. 

"There is the need for this community to wrap our support around those who are most affected by Friday’s events, and that is the immediate focus for the Crusaders team. At an appropriate time, we will thoroughly consider the issues that have been raised and our response to that. That will include conversations with a range of people, including our Muslim community.

The Chiefs and Hurricanes joined together in a pre-match huddle. Photo: Getty Images"This team and the wider organisation are united with our community in standing against such abhorrent acts as that which occurred on Friday in Christchurch, and in standing in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters."

The Crusaders shared points with the Highlanders in a cancelled match at the weekend, and will play the Waratahs in Sydney this weekend.