Super Rugby’s most successful team, the Crusaders, says it is open to discussing a potential name change following the Christchurch mosque shootings that have killed 50 people.
The Canterbury club adopted its name 23 years ago when rugby went professional.
Following Friday’s shootings, questions have been raised about the name’s associations with the mediaeval religious wars between Christians and Muslims.
The Crusades were a series of religious and political wars between Christians and Muslims fought in 11th and 13th centuries.
The franchise, which has won a record nine Super Rugby titles and is based in Christchurch, issued a statement on Saturday defending the name. On Sunday, chief executive Colin Mansbridge said it was open to initiating discussions about a change, in time.
“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,” Mansbridge said.
“This is bigger than rugby and we’re absolutely heartbroken for our wide community, which is where our thoughts are.
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) March 17, 2019
He said the franchise understood the concerns raised about its name.
“The Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading sprit of the 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,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“In our view, this a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all 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.”
The Crusaders’ clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday was cancelled after discussions between the teams and police.
The third cricket test between New Zealand and Bangladesh, whichg was due to start in Christchurch on Saturday, was cancelled after the tourists narrowly avoided being caught up in the shooting.
New Zealand’s top professional football team, the Wellington Phoenix, did play its A-League match with the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.
The side commemorated one of those killed, Kuwait-born Atta Elayyan, the goalkeeper for the New Zealand futsal team.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read had earlier urged his fellow New Zealanders to reject bigotry and support the country’s Muslim community after the shooting.
“That this hate-filled atrocity has happened in our backyard is beyond words,” Read, who was caught up in the city centre lockdown at his daughters’ school on Friday as police searched for the gunman, wrote on his Instagram account.
“Our strength lies in our diversity and while acts such as this are orchestrated in an attempt to divide us, love and unity will always prevail.”