New Zealand rugby union team – Canterbury Crusaders – are considering a name change to distance themselves from the atrocities committed against Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch in which 50 worshippers were massacred.
The club name was adopted in 1996 when rugby union in New Zealand became a professional sport, is derived from the medieval ‘crusades’ – a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Vatican and waged by European Christian kingdoms to take back the holy lands of the Levant from Muslims.
The logo depicts a crusader soldier holding a sword next to the club name.
In response to last Friday’s horrific attacks, Crusaders CEO, Colin Mansbridge, said the club stood for“support of our Muslim brothers and sisters”.
In a statement, Mr Mansbridge said:“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.”
On Tuesday, New Zealand’s Sports Minister Grant Robertson said that a debate about the club’s name was needed and that it was appropriate.
Mr Robertson added: “I’m aware of the conversations that they’re now having with, in particular, the Muslim community in Christchurch.
“The Crusaders is a well-established name and brand, but I think it is a responsible action to undertake those conversations now.”