CHRISTCHURCH – Crusaders leaders Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read have called for the immediate focus following the Christchurch mosque massacres to remain on the grieving Muslim community and not be sidetracked by their team’s name.
The senior players said on Tuesday that a debate about a possible name change for the Christchurch-based Super Rugby club could take place later.
“I think at the moment, this is much bigger than rugby,” Whitelock said in a video issued by the Crusaders.
“We are just trying to make sure we take the appropriate time, and make sure we are respectful, and those decisions will happen in time.”
The name Crusaders is associated with wars waged by Christians against Muslims in the Middle East in the 11th to 13th centuries.
Before the rugby club’s home games, chainmail-draped horsemen, wielding swords, circle the playing field.
Fifty Muslim worshippers were shot dead at two Christchurch mosques on Friday.
The accused gunman, a self-avowed white supremacist, used weapons bearing distinctive writing, including the names of historical figures from the Crusades.
New Zealand’s Minister for Sport Grant Robertson has said he supports any discussions around a potential name change for the Crusaders in the wake of the shootings, and “clearly this is a big issue for Canterbury”.
Read, who is also the All Blacks captain, said the Muslim community was hurting, and the conversation needed to be on what could be done to help them.
“It’s hard to fathom what they’re going through. For us to support them the best we can is important,” he said.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said that when the time is right, they will talk to the Muslim community about the name and “get the information we need to make a great decision and do the right thing”.