The Canterbury-based Crusaders Super Rugby team are having discussions over a possible name change following the terrorist attacks in Christchurch.
On Sunday, three days after the attacks in which 50 Muslim worshippers were killed and dozens more were injured in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Crusaders team has put out a statement from its Chief Executive, Colin Mansbridge, acknowledging talk about concerns over the team’s name.
Key words about this development were that the Crusaders are a New Zealand Super Rugby team whose home is in Christchurch. Discussion over the team’s name has grown since mass shootings at two mosques where 50 people were killed and the Crusades were a series of religious and political wars between Christians and Muslims in the 11th and 13th centuries.
In the chief executive’s statement, the club undertook to have a thorough look at the issue “at an appropriate time”.
On Tuesday, New Zealand Sports and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said he understood conversations were taking place between the club and members of the Muslim community.
“Clearly this is a big issue in Canterbury. The Crusaders is a well-established name and brand,” he said.
“I think it’s a responsible action to undertake those conversations now.”
Late on Tuesday, the team released a video on their Facebook page in which coach Scott Robertson and players Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock spoke about the discussion.
“I just think at the moment this is bigger than rugby,” Whitelock said.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we take the appropriate time and make sure we’re very respectful and those decisions will happen in time but at the moment we’re just trying to give everyone space where they need it.
“Those things [decisions] will happen in the future when they’re most appropriate.”
Robertson said the Crusaders just wanted “to do the right thing” around the team name.
“What we do is we play rugby, we’re a rugby club,” he said.
“[Over] the association of a name, we want to go through a process.
“We want to let people grieve, we want to make sure that they’ve got time, and we go to the people who can represent them [Muslim people] to get the information we need to make a great decision and do the right thing.”
The majority of comments from fans on the video called on the Crusaders not to change the name.
But a series of opinion pieces in New Zealand’s media have called for a new name in the wake of the attacks.
Crusaders name linked with success, but a difficult history
Founded in 1996 as the Canterbury Crusaders, the team represents a number of rugby unions in the upper South Island of New Zealand and changed its name to the Crusaders for the start of the 2000 Super Rugby season.
The most successful side in Super Rugby history, with nine titles, the Crusaders’ Christchurch base is just a few kilometres away from the Al Noor mosque where the terrorist incident began on Monday.
The team’s logo features an armoured knight brandishing a sword, their armour emblazoned with a cross similar to those worn in the Crusades.
The Crusades were a series of religious and political wars fought between Christian and Muslim forces in the 11th and 13th centuries.
Retired Professor of religious studies Peter Lineham told Radio New Zealand the Crusades were “the ugliest moment in relations between Christians and Muslims”.
“Particularly in Jerusalem when they [the Crusaders] arrived in 1099, the horrific stories of their bloody incursions have left an unforgettable mark on world history,” Dr Lineham said, adding the name always implied an “incursion to dominate and control another people”.
“That may be the way rugby wants to see itself, but the violence of that surely is not what rugby is about.”
The Crusaders will play the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday in their first match since the attacks — their game against the Highlanders scheduled for last Saturday was called off.
They will next play at home on April 6 against the Brumbies.
Head-of-State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari being conferred with the traditional title of Ogareku (Warlord) of Ebiraland by the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Sanni Omolori, 1985. #HistoryVille
I was actually there then at the Ohinoyi’s Palace as a primary 5 pupil. Love this.