New Zealand sports minister Grant Robertson has lent his support for discussions to be had about a possible name change for reigning Super Rugby champions Crusaders, following last week’s Christchurch terror attack.
A 28-year-old white man is the main suspect behind the mass shooting at two mosques in the South Island city which has left 50 people dead.
Amidst the nation’s grief, questions have been posed over the name of the city’s Super Rugby team, the Crusaders, due to its historic association with the medieval wars between Christians and Muslims in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
And Robertson has welcomed the topic to be discussed days after the country announced it would reform its gun laws in the wake of the attack.
“I’m aware of the conversations that they’re now having within particular the Muslim community in Christchurch,” he said. “I think that’s appropriate, clearly this is a big issue in Canterbury.
“The Crusaders is a well-established name and brand but I think it is a responsible action to undertake those conversations now.”
The Crusaders are already aware of such calls and released a statement last week where they distanced themselves from the historical connotation of the Crusades.
Chief executive Colin Mansbridge said in the statement: “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.
“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.
“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.”
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