Time for crusade to end

It is a little-known fact that the New York Yankees, the powerhouse Major League Baseball team loved by many and loathed by many more, were once called the New York Highlanders.

Fellow baseball franchise Tampa Bay referred to its team as the Devil Rays through a streak of utter uselessness before the decision to drop "Devil'' was followed by an upswing in fortunes, and Cleveland's diamond dynasty started life as the Blue Birds before trying the Broncos, the Naps and, finally, the Indians - and that nickname's days are understandably numbered.

English football champion Manchester City started life as Ardwick. Manchester United was Newton Heath. Arsenal has been Dial Square, Royal Arsenal and The Arsenal.

Perhaps the best examples of sports teams that changed to shuck off unpleasant connotations are basketball's Washington Bullets and baseball's Houston Colt .45s. Both teams rebranded - the Bullets became the Wizards, and the Colt .45s turned into the Astros - because of links with escalating gun violence.

All of which is a roundabout way of backing the Crusaders rugby team's decision to review the sustainability of its name following the Christchurch terror attacks, and of urging New Zealand rugby's pace-setters to get this done quickly.

It is no longer appropriate to have a sports team linked - explicitly, despite what it would have us believe - to the brutal, bloody Crusades that led to widespread slaughter of Muslim people.

Fifty Muslims were killed in the March 15 attacks. And that is really the only reason one needs to give for the Crusaders name to go.

New Zealand changed that day. Christchurch changed. It was a change forced, brutally, on the nation and the city. Now, we get the opportunity to make brave, sensible, considered change, and send a simple and powerful message that some things mean more than sport.

And it's not like much will really change, at least after a settling-in period. There will still be a powerful and popular Super Rugby team based in Christchurch. Still a break-dancing coach. Still exciting players to watch.

Crusaders fans fearful of what the future holds might like to wonder if Astros fans felt the 2017 World Series trophy was devalued because it did not have "Colt .45s'' engraved upon it, or if football fans on the blue side of Manchester feel the presence of Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling is small consolation for not being able to wave Ardwick scarves.

While the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby have moved swiftly to instigate a review, it is a shade disappointing they have had a dollar each way, suggesting it is not the name that is untenable but the combination of the name and the branding, as if you can have one without the other.

It is nonsensical to argue, as both organisations have, that only now has the team's name been linked to the religious Crusades. That was always the case, and perhaps it should not have taken the terror attacks to make it clear.

The loudest protests are coming from traditional rugby fans - though, at 23 years, the Crusaders brand has one of the youngest traditions in the sporting world - whose arguments against changing the name appear limited to allegations of political correctness and concerns other teams, named after things like hurricanes, are not facing the same scrutiny.

Both arguments are paper-thin. The Crusaders name must go.

Comments

This is what PC gets us//////// nowhere/

 

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