Canterbury Crusaders stars call for focus to be on grieving in aftermath of terror attacks
LONDON: Canterbury Crusaders stars 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 controversial name.
The senior players said 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 last Friday in sickening terrorist attack. The accused gunman, a self-avowed white supremacist, walked into the Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch and opened fire with a semi-automatic gun. He livestreamed the attack. A second shooting took place not long after at another mosque in the city.
Twenty-eight-year-old Brenton Tarrant — who has traveled to Europe and visited crusader sites — has been charged with murder after the attacks. He was found to be using weapons bearing distinctive writing including the names of historical figures from the Crusades during the massacre.
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. “Our strength lies in our diversity and while acts such as this are orchestrated in an attempt to divide us, love and unity will always prevail.”
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.”
Meanwhile Kiwi rugby legend Robbie Deans has added his voice to others expressing shock and dismay over the terror attacks.
“You just never thought that it could happen in our community,” the former Crusaders and Australia coach said.
“It will have changed not only Canterbury but New Zealand forever. “It’s shattered an innocence, if you like, within the community. It’s irrational. Which makes it all the more difficult to deal with.
“It will change the place forever. It will change the community, it will change attitudes. But it will also harden the resolve.”