Crusaders defy name change calls after massacre
The Crusaders are defying calls to change their name before next weekend's Super Rugby clash against the Waratahs following complaints it was no longer appropriate in the wake of the Christchurch massacre.
To followers of Islam, the mere term Crusaders is a deeply offensive symbol representing the bloody religious wars fought between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages for control of the Holy land.
To New Zealand rugby fans, the Crusaders are just another symbol of their ruthless domination of the sport, but there has been a dramatic shift in opinion after Friday's mass killings of Muslims at two Christchurch mosques.
Some commentators in traditional New Zealand media have called for the name to be changed immediately, saying it was no longer appropriate.
Supporters of the name have accused the critics of political correctness, whole social media is split on what to do.
The Crusaders, who agreed to cancel their match against the Highlanders as a mark of respect, say they aware of the complaints about the team name but say they won't budge on changing it.
"In terms of the Crusaders name, we acknowledge and understand the concerns that have been raised," the Crusaders said a statement.
"For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community, and certainly not a religious statement.
"What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch (on Friday); our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit."
That may well all be true but there's no mistaking the clear and obvious links the team's name has with the religious wars that spanned almost two centuries.
The team's officials logo features a knightsman brandishing his sword while before each game, the pre-match entertainment is all based around the Crusades.
In one part of the ground, there's a castle, where flames shoot out from, while before each match, performers ride out onto the field on horseback, dressed as Crusaders going to into battle, complete with their swords drawn and white, Christian crosses on their costumes.
"Like all New Zealanders, the Crusaders team and organisation are deeply shocked by this tragedy and our thoughts primarily are with the victims and their families right now," the team said.
"This is bigger than rugby and we're absolutely heartbroken for our wider community, which is where our thoughts are at this point in time.