6 May 2019

Rebranding the Crusaders: The argument for it post-Christchurch terror attacks

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 6 May 2019

The Crusaders rugby franchise has found itself in a public relations dilemma.

Crusaders horsemen at the Super rugby quarter final in July 2018.

Crusaders horsemen at the Super rugby quarter final in July 2018. Photo: Photosport

The team has built itself on a ‘crusading’ brand, with sword-wielding knights running into battle on horseback.

But in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, the appropriateness of the name, the iconography, and all it represented, had been called into question.

In an historical sense, the Crusades were a series of holy wars fought by Christians, largely against Muslim countries. Those who fought signed up to do so under the cross; they were fighting a religious fight against people of another religion.

Newsroom sports journalist Steve Deane had written a divisive column on the issue. He favours a rebrand, saying the name was an issue even before the Christchurch attacks, but had now been brought into the spotlight.

Save the Crusaders banner

Photo: Facebook

“You just can’t have a name that is going to deeply trouble a section of your citizenry, and that’s the reality of the Crusaders,” he said.

“The arguments in favour of keeping the name are very much, 'that’s the way we’ve always done it and we like it'. The arguments in favour of getting rid of the name… are that you’re genuinely harming people who we should be caring for. That’s the way I see it.”

However, most people disagree with that view.

Recent opinion polls place a clear majority against a rebrand – with a key argument being that the name represented bravery and valour, as opposed to a violent war against Muslims. 

Deane said the majority opinion was not what mattered. 

“The fact 90 percent of people support the name - you’re always going to get that when you’re looking at an issue where the minority is affected.”

“It’s the minority you need to think of here.”

New Zealand Rugby now has to weigh up the risk of disappointing fans with the risk of being seen to ignore the plight of a targeted minority.

“The best thing for them to do is to make a bold move now, change the name, and say we’ve realised it wasn’t suitable,” Deane said.

“The problem isn’t going to go away.” 

Photo: RNZ