The Crusaders, Super Rugby’s most successful team with nine titles, adopted the name 23 years ago. Photo: John Davidson/www.photosport.nz

WELLINGTON – New Zealand’s sports minister has welcomed discussions about a potential name change for the Canterbury Crusaders in the wake of a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 people last week.

A suspected white supremacist carried out the shooting at the mosques as people gathered for Friday.

The Crusaders, Super Rugby’s most successful team with nine titles, adopted the name 23 years ago when rugby went professional but in the wake of the mosque attacks questions have been raised over its associations with the medieval religious wars between Christians and Muslims.

While the Crusaders initially said the name had no religious connotations and that it reflected the region’s “crusading spirit”, the team’s chief executive Colin Mansbridge said they were open to talking about changing it.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson said such discussions were appropriate.

“I’m aware of the conversations that they’re now having with in 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.”

Robertson said he would not voice his own opinion until the team had finished their consultations with the local community.

The team’s decision to discuss the issue was also welcomed by the local newspaper The Press. 

Reuters