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Crusaders to investigate name change in wake of Christchurch attack

Christchurch, New Zealand-based rugby union side Crusaders has engaged a marketing company to investigate a potential rebrand or name change in the aftermath of the attack on two mosques in the city last month, which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers.

The reigning Super Rugby champion has already moved to drop its knights on horseback mascots, which have long been part of the pre-game entertainment at the Christchurch Stadium, due to their invocation of the historical Crusades and the cultural clash between Christians and Muslims. Imagery of the Crusades is often invoked by far-right and anti-Islamic groups in New Zealand and beyond.

Independent research company Research First has now been appointed to “seek feedback and provide recommendations” for further steps, according to a club statement. New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew described the club’s branding as “no longer tenable” in the modern world and urged Crusaders to make changes.

The club had previously stated that it would hold off on making any decisions until a less sensitive time but, following Tew’s statement, Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge accepted that changes will have to be made and said the club was “committed to do the right thing.”

Tew has signalled that the NZRU would be open to the Crusaders name being kept if the associated branding and imagery was changed, but a complete rebrand remains on the table. Research First will collect feedback throughout the 2019 Super Rugby season, and is not expected to offer its recommendations until after the final in July.