Crusaders and NZR engage research company on branding dilemma

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While baseball's Atlanta Braves and the National Football League's Washington Redskins have retained their names and imagery, there has been some change.

"In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, it is apparent that the symbolism the club has used, combined with the "Crusaders" name, is offensive to some in the community due to its association with the religious Crusades between Christians and Muslims", NZR boss Steve Tew said.

The team says it will decide the extent of the rebranding - whether to overturn its brand completely or retire its imaging but keep the name - in consultation with an independent research company.

Saturday's match against the Brumbies will be the first in Christchurch since the shootings and won't feature the traditional pre-match entertainment of Crusaders horses and horsemen.

But the terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch on March 15, that killed 50 people and wounded 50 more, has led to debate about the suitability of the Crusaders name given its links to the religious crusades, starting in the 11th century, that killed millions of people.

Chief Executive Tew said Research First will consider retaining the Crusaders name with an all-new brand look and imagery; or rebrand the franchise in its entirety.

New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson said it was a "responsible action" to reconsider the name.

Research First will deliver feedback and recommendations about the club's name and branding with a view to change for the 2020 season.

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On Wednesday, Mansbridge reiterated the defense of the brand that he had originally put forward just days after the shooting.

Mansbridge said: "Our challenge is that the name Crusader has come to mean something quite different to numerous team's supporters".

"If the team culture is healthy and they do a lot of good things for society and their community then you don't want to change that".

Mansbridge said "tragic and trying events" had molded the team into a galvanizing force for the region, making the name "more reflective of a positive Crusade".

"The team has played an important role in helping galvanise the community and raise spirits following significant events".

Other people took issue with Tew's statement that an association with the religious Crusades "has now been drawn".

The juxtaposition of a city embracing those impacted by the attacks with a nickname that recalls medieval wars between Christians and Muslims was quickly recognised on social media with some calling for the Crusaders to be renamed.

The Crusaders name was adopted by the Canterbury Rugby Union and five neighbouring provinces when rugby went professional in 1996 and they were granted a franchise to compete in the competition that became Super Rugby. The team's website describes the horseman logo, recognizable "Conquest of Paradise" theme song and center-piece sword as "pieces of the Crusaders jigsaw have made the Crusaders concept widely recognised and so intimidating for visiting teams". He has not only been at the top of the refereeing game for a number of seasons, but he is also a wonderful ambassador for South Africa, and we are delighted to see his career grow from strength to strength.

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