Sport is politics — what else could it possibly be, if the ramifications of the abhorrent acts of terrorism in Christchurch last week are anything to go by.

The mindless acts of violence have suddenly got players, coaches and administrators revisiting their mission statements, as it were.

Should the Super Rugby franchise in Canterbury drop its name as the Crusaders?

Will Sonny Bill Williams play for the Blues when they face the Crusaders in Christchurch on May 25?


Historically, the Crusades were a series of religious and political wars between Christians and Muslims fought in 11th and 13th centuries.

Did sports-minded people feel comfortable about the Hurricanes and the Chiefs kicking off at the Cake Tin when blood was still "flowing like a river" at the two mosques in Christchurch last Friday night?

Will the International Cricket Council declare New Zealand an unsafe zone for future international matches after the 50 Muslims died in the shooting? It doesn't help the Kiwi cause that the touring Bangladesh cricketers had come just a driveway-length away from becoming victims of the alleged gunman near Hagley Park, with the bus driver, reportedly according to players, ignoring their pleas to drive off from the site.

If so, will the Black Caps have to travel to Australia to play their games, akin to the Pakistan team playing their home games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), after terrorists targeted the Sri Lanka tour bus, injuring six players and killing six police officers and two civilians, in March 2009? Maybe a Pacific Island nation, or two, could become the beneficiary of development from the construction of cricketing venues in the sultry climes.

On the flip side, the Central Districts Stags cricketers insisted on playing their four-day Plunket Shield game, after a quick korero (meeting) among players and management, against the Northern Districts Knights at Seddon Park, Hamilton, knowing they had won the bragging rights of the first-class domestic men's competition when the Canterbury Kings, the only remaining contenders, had cancelled their game against the Wellington Firebirds on the eve of the match on Saturday.

What should we make of the Wellington Phoenix team playing their game against the Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League for a 3-1 victory on Sunday?

If, as coach Mark Rudan declared, the result was the second most important thing then why bother playing it in the first place? Golden-boot contender Roy Krishna's wife is Muslim.

The Southern Steel and Mainland Tactix players observe a minute's silence after moving the game from Christchurch to Invercargill on Sunday. Photo/Photosport
The Southern Steel and Mainland Tactix players observe a minute's silence after moving the game from Christchurch to Invercargill on Sunday. Photo/Photosport

The Canterbury Tactix, who have Hawke's Bay players Kimiora Poi and Ellie Bird in their squad, didn't look like they wanted to be on the court against the Southern Steel in Invercargill on Sunday night.


The decision to move the match from Christchurch stemmed from the desire to show solidarity for the victims of the families, after the Crusaders, the Kings and the Canterbury United Dragons, in the ISPS Handa Premiership, abandoned their games.

What we watch on sport channels these days have become a game within games to redefine cultural, economic and even religious boundaries.

The scary thing is neither commentators nor fans seem willing to concede ground on certain issues that have the propensity to divide a nation, as much as unite it.

It seems like not too many moons ago sport wasn't so complex. Turn up, compete, have a few beers and hot chips with the spectators and go home to one's family.

Now it's not that straightforward.

Chuck in religion, politics and mind-boggling sums of money and sport becomes a lethal cocktail.

Perhaps the one thing that puts sport in its place is the declaration from professional athletes and administrators that the game of life is the biggest of them all.

"I think at the moment this [tragedy] is much bigger than rugby," Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said on a video posted on social media, days after franchise CEO Colin Mansbridge declared it was looking into a name change.

A tearful SBW conveyed his condolences on social media and, eventually, some codes more than others, joined the chorus.

Somehow the voice — or lack of — of sportspeople has become a prerequisite to social conformity. The words of athletes, it seems, resonate better with the public than any assurances from politicians.

At the crux of the mosque massacre is racism. Dress it up how you like — "extreme right wing", dissidents, nutters — racial prejudice has always been present in some form or shape in sport globally.

I have come across it in New Zealand, since arriving in the country from Fiji almost three decades ago, even at social competitive level.

I have questioned SBW's sincerity in previous columns but I must laud his decision to skip the match against the Highlanders this week to help victims in a charitable cause in Christchurch.

Any speculation that he is switching back to rugby league isn't worthy of debating right now.

It takes courage to make a political stand for humanity, athletes or not.

Sometimes it's necessary for athletes to engage in political football to resolve deep-seated issues.

As someone who covered the "blood-less" political upheaval in Fiji, I salute the countless doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers and journalists toiling at the coal face in Christchurch.