IOL sport writer Zaahier Adams.
What's in a name? Particularly those of sports teams.

There are some horrible ones out there. The Indian Premier League regularly serves up a couple of shockers. Rising Pune Supergiant springs to mind.

Gridiron in the United States, arguably the creators of these monikers, has come up with a few specials in their time too. Ever heard of the Cleveland Browns?

Not many  or at least, I hope  would object to these names ever being changed.

However, there are others that are intrinsically linked to the people, culture and region they represent. They are an identity of some sort, almost a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Equally, they are the ultimate dividers.

Just think of the Springboks, our national rugby team’s name. For some the Springboks are revered, powerful and strong, and a symbol of excellence.

Too others, it is an everlasting legacy of Apartheid and the symbol of oppression and segregation.

Many forums have been created to discuss a possible name/logo change  up to the very highest level where former President Nelson Mandela was personally forced to intervene on the matter back in 1994. It is such a contentious issue that “Springbok name change” is the second item that appears on Google search when “Springbok” is punched in.

April Fools jokes are even made about it just to gauge public opinion. A local media outlet ran one this very week claiming that the Springboks were to be known as the Zebras going forward. Just imagine.

Often the emotion attached to a team’s name is directly linked to its on-field success, which brings me to the Crusaders: a New Zealand Super Rugby team that boasts the most successful record  nine titles in 23 years  in the competition’s history.

The Crusaders, arguably the primary feeder to the juggernaut All Blacks, have recently been in the spotlight not just for their entertaining and hugely successful brand of rugby.

Due to the horrific terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques, when a gunman stormed in and killed 50 worshippers and left dozens injured, it has a prompted a debate that questions the appropriateness of the Crusaders’ name.

Historically, the crusades were a series of bloody conflicts between Muslims and Christians fought in the 11th and 13th centuries. The Crusaders  that’s the rugby team I am referring to  have over the years further integrated the sword-wielding knights on horseback as part of their marketing themes.

In another world it could have been an Afghanistan T20 cricket team calling themselves the Kabul Hamas XI  and having heavily armed guards in military regalia, adorned with black scarves and green bandanas around their heads  leading the team on the field.

Can you imagine the global outcry that would cause?

But just like the Springboks, the fact that the Crusaders are considering their name change has caused distinct division (because, like NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew recently stated “it is offensive to some in the community”).

A recent New Zealand Herald poll indicated 57% of its online visitors claimed “The Crusaders shouldn’t change a thing”. That’s in comparison to 25% requesting the “Crusaders have to drop name and imagery”, while 15% wanted the name to be kept, but the imagery to be dropped. Only 3% voted in favour of the name being dropped, with the imagery remaining intact.

So, the question remains: What’s in a name? Apparently quite a bit.

@ZaahierAdams 


Weekend Argus