Well, weren't we all love, inclusiveness and understanding after the Christchurch attack? Until they tried to touch our rugby.

NZ Rugby is considering changing the Crusaders' name and branding because of the association with historic religious wars (crusades) between Christians and Muslims.

For many of us, this association wasn't known about until three weeks ago.


In those awful hours after the initial Christchurch attack on March 15, I wondered why our PM quickly moved from calling the event an "act of violence" to an act of "terrorism".

Another journalist explained that an attack becomes terrorism because of the intent behind it. The gunman intended to incite fear and to intimidate.

Anything can spark outrage but it all comes down to intent.

In wearing a hijab, Jacinda Adern intended to show unity, belonging. She did not intend to support the oppression of women that some say the headdress symbolises.

The name Crusaders was not intended as a celebration of the historic killings between Christians and Muslims.

In 2001, following the September 11 attacks in the US, Kiwi band Shihad changed its name to Pacifier due to associations with the word "Jihad" which (very crudely translated) means "struggle" or "holy war" to Muslims.

NZ gun laws are set to change, and the Crusaders consider a name change in light of the Christchurch massacre - a far cry from US gun laws and sporting club name changes. Image / Rod Emmerson
NZ gun laws are set to change, and the Crusaders consider a name change in light of the Christchurch massacre - a far cry from US gun laws and sporting club name changes. Image / Rod Emmerson

Most understand these to be innocent decisions, not intended to cause any harm.

But it is all innocent, isn't it? Until it isn't.


Isn't that part of what we have questioned ourselves on as a country and individuals these last three weeks?

Haven't we all come to understand that for sections of our society, many of whom are vulnerable, things can take on new meanings, especially right now?

Intentions can't change but the meanings of words can.

We should be applauding NZ Rugby for raising this dialogue. It is a conversation that needs to be had.

However, if we are to change the Crusaders' name, it could be the tip of the iceberg.

As viewers on Three's AM Show noted this morning, what about the Chiefs and the Hurricanes? Hurricanes and chiefs have killed people too.


And what about New Zealand place names? How many are named after people who caused significant harm to Māori?

While we're at it, more broadly, why do we continue to call terrorists "terrorists", even though the term is associated with countless acts of mass violence that have killed thousands globally?

While we decide the gunman will not win, we dare not use his name or give him the notoriety he and those of his ilk are so desperately after, we continue to label him a terrorist.

Why do we put them on their appalling pedestal? Why don't we just call them religious or political attacks? They are generally either an attack by an extremist - religious or political - fighting for or against a religious or political cause.

The terms "religious attack", "political attack" or "extremist attack" conjure up images of indoctrinated people unable to think for themselves. People who have been brainwashed into believing in something most of the rest of us can't see.

It certainly doesn't conjure up the power you give a perpetrator when you use the word "terrorist".


And words do matter.

In New South Wales, Australia, the term "one-punch death" can no longer be used to describe those killed by the violence of a single blow (also previously called a "king hit"). In November 2011, the term was changed to "coward punch".

Along with heavier sentencing powers and changes to liquor laws, the term change was a move to prevent further suffering to victims' families.

It also takes the perception of power away from attackers, perhaps in part to prevent copycat attacks.

Why can't we do the same for terrorism?

But back to the Crusaders.


The proposed name change is a gesture. It's an acknowledgement that a recently-realised association may have, and may still be, causing discomfort to people who are hurting.

It says: "We're thinking of you now. We're sorry if we have hurt you. We don't want you to hurt anymore."

Isn't NZ Rugby really just saying what we have all been saying during the last three-and-a-half weeks?

Change the Crusaders if you must. It's just rugby. It's just a game.

Pacifier changed its name back to Shihad three years later.

I'm not sure the Crusaders too shall pass.