Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson says he supports the initiative of Crusaders bosses to scrutinise the suitability of their title and imagery following last Friday’s terror act in which 50 people were killed at two mosques by an Australian gunman.
Critics have raised concern over the use of a name they say is offensive to the Muslim faith.
The Crusades was the name originally given to a series of conflicts between Christian soldiers (Crusaders) and Muslims in the Mediterranean region, beginning in the 11th century.
The Crusaders issued a statement saying the name was meant to reflect “the crusading spirit of this community” but understood the concerns raised and would consult widely.
Robertson praised the club for their front foot approach.
“I’m aware of the conversations that they’re now having with, in particular, the Muslim community in Christchurch. I think that’s appropriate,” he said.
“Clearly this is a big issue in Canterbury, the Crusaders is a well-established name and brand but I think it’s a responsible action to undertake those conversations now.”
In a Facebook video posted on the Crusaders page on Tuesday Robertson expanded on the issue, saying the Crusaders “just want to do the right thing and there’s a consultation process that will go on.
“Like Reado (Kieran Read) said about the origins of all the different people we represent, what we do is we play rugby. We’re a rugby club, that’s what we do, we play rugby. The association of the name, we want to go through a process, we want to let people grieve, we want to make sure they’ve got time, and we’ll go to the people that can represent them and get the information we need to make a great decision and do the right thing.”
Sam Whitelock added: “I think at the moment this is much bigger than rugby. We are just trying to make sure we take the appropriate time and make sure we are very respectful and those decisions will happen in time, but at the moment we are trying to give everyone space where they need it and those things will happen in the future when it is most appropriate.”
Original Crusaders chairman Donald Stewart revealed to stuff.co.nz that he had reservations about the name when the Super 12 was launched in 1996.
Stewart said the name was given to them by New Zealand Rugby, which had full control of the process.
“I had doubts on the basis that we were trying to project ourselves globally with an international competition,” said Stewart, who is now based in Sydney.
“And I wondered whether this name might prove offensive to some potential viewers. I probably didn’t share that opinion widely.”
The Crusaders are the world’s most successful professional club rugby team, having snared nine Super Rugby titles, including the last two.
They have housed some of the world’s finest players, including All Blacks Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.