The Christchurch-based Super Rugby club, the Crusaders, have confirmed a name change and rebranding will be considered in the wake of the terrorist attack on two mosques, with the status quo “no longer tenable”.
An independent company has been engaged to carry out research over the course of the rest of the season for the club, whose base is not far from Al Noor mosque in the South Island city.
Fifty people were killed and dozens more injured during the terrorist attacks on 15 March, prompting a growing debate around the Crusaders’ name.
Research First will deliver feedback and recommendations about the club’s name and branding with a view to change for the 2020 season.
The team’s current badge features a sword-wielding knight with a cross on his chest in the style of a medieval Crusader.
“This is an event that rocked our community and brought some important issues to the fore,” Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said. “One of the contentious issues that has been brought up in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks is the name of our rugby team – the Crusaders.
“Because of our desire to be the best we can be and to support our community, we are treating the question around the appropriateness of our brand extremely seriously. We are committed to undertaking a thorough process, taking into account all relevant opinions and, most importantly, we are committed to doing the right thing.”
The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church between Christians and Muslims during the medieval period with the aim of reclaiming Jerusalem. The alleged shooter included references to the Crusades in his manifesto and printed the names of Christian Crusades military leaders on the weapons he used in the attack.
The research will provide recommendations on two possible options: retaining the Crusaders name but changing the branding and associated imagery; or undertaking a complete rebranding, including the name and all imagery.
“Maintaining the status quo in terms of the Crusaders name along with the current imagery of knights on horseback is, in our view, no longer tenable because of the association with the religious Crusades that has now been drawn,” New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said. “That is therefore not one of the options that we will be considering.”
Chain-mail-clad knights on horseback usually ride around the playing field at part of the pre-match entertainment before Crusaders’ home games, but for last weekend’s match against the Canberra-based Brumbies – their first at AMI Stadium since the attacks – the practice was cut.
“In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, it is apparent that the symbolism the club has used, combined with the ‘Crusaders’ name, is offensive to some in the community due to its association with the religious Crusades between Christians and Muslims,” Tew added.
“One thing that has become very clear in the last two weeks is that there are divided opinions on the best way forward for the brand. We understand and appreciate the passionate feedback that we are receiving on both sides of the conversation, and at this stage we are committed to keeping an open mind until the independent research has been done.”
Mansbridge added: “We have already stated our commitment to undertaking a thorough process and to do so is going to take time. It will not be possible to arrive at a final decision and respond in our brand, wardrobe and insignia before the end of this season, but the outcome for any decision will be reflected in our marketing material, playing kit and at-game experience for the 2020 season. We will remain the Crusaders for the rest of the 2019 season.”