For the past few weeks I've received numerous messages asking me what my stance is on the proposed name change or status quo of the Canterbury Crusaders, after the reverberations from the Christchurch shootings last month.

Even my golfing buddies have had an opinion on the matter but I have refrained from diving into the issue because of the sensitivities surrounding it, out of respect for an entire nation mourning the loss of innocent lives.

However, the most recent brace of questions from an avid reader has prompted me to broach the subject.

No, it's not easy but opinion columns never are because you're bound to leave one party or other disenchanted.


"Are you journalists still having to be sensitive around Christchurch?" the reader asks. "Why are the Crusaders having to change their name?

"If the terror attack had been in Wellington would the Hurricanes have to change their name? After all, hurricanes kill people.

"If the attack had been in South Africa, would the Bulls and the Lions have to change their names? They kill people.

"If the attack had been in Dunedin, would the Highlanders have to change their name? There were lots of bloody battles in Scotland.

"If the attack had been in Hamilton, would the Chiefs have to change their name? Lots of Maori inter-tribal battles took place.

"Will all teams end up with depressing names like the 'Blues' to keep the PC brigade happy?" the reader rounds off.

Okay it's imperative for me to declare here that I was born a Hindu in Fiji.

Ironically, I attended Marist Brothers primary and secondary schools, which played a pivotal part in who I am today because the Roman Catholic education in the Pacific Island nation was second to none — academically, culturally, spiritually and sportingly.


That is not to say my parents, like many Hindus, detested the schools' policy of a segregated entry criteria — Roman Catholics pupils were granted automatic entry to high school, regardless of results, and 50 per cent of the roll of 120-odd places were allocated to them. Pupils of other faiths jostled for remaining places on merit and ethnicity.

As Hindus — I'm not a practising one, taking an agnostic stance in my formative years when I started acquiring a sense of political awareness and religious consciousness — my parents and many relatives politely declined to even drink a glass of water at a Muslim family's home, such was the religious demarcation.

Again, ironically, my best friend is a Muslim, having emigrated to San Francisco, in the United States, post-coup in 1987. I have never had qualms about eating at his home in our teenage years or sleeping overnight, and vice-versa. I still have other Muslim friends living in Suva and scattered around the world.

I am married to an ethnically different Roman Catholic woman who frequently reminds me that "death will do us part" — no doubt, she has been a more palatable proposition for my parents after I came precariously close to becoming a suitable man for a Muslim.

With such complexities, I will declare that I belong to a franchise who champion humanity in the most important game we'll ever play — life.

Yes, I'm still ultra cautious discussing matters pertaining to Christchurch.

And no, the Hurricanes, Bulls, Lions, the Highlanders and Chiefs wouldn't have had to alter their branding or moniker if the shootings had happened in their respective catchment areas.

Islamophobia led to the vile act, not mother nature or the law of the jungle. The alleged gunman's "manifesto" reportedly made several references to carrying out a "crusade".

For me, the loss of lives, not to mention the ramifications of that on the victims' families and acquaintances, simply relegates the significance of any sporting code, team or event.

How can anything possibly negate the act of cold-bloodedly mowing down people from behind while they are worshipping God?

It hardly matters what ethnicity, religion or denomination people belong to. Why is humanity getting caught offside so frequently?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the favourite in the human race, not just in New Zealand but globally. Photo / NZME
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the favourite in the human race, not just in New Zealand but globally. Photo / NZME

The fallacy is in feeling Muslims are somehow getting away with head-high tackles. For that matter, it isn't about what the Islamic followers feel about the name at all. It's about how the country juxtaposes a Super Rugby franchise and its fans' values with the mores of a part of society which feels disenfranchised.

Sport franchises conjure names that either have a propensity to instil holy fear in their rivals or pay homage to the team's heritage, or both.

Consequently Crusaders aptly encapsulates "Christ Church" and the knights, horses and weapons due to its English heritage although I'm no fan of exposing animals in noisy enclosures.

The burning question is: Does all that unite or divide a mutating country, not just as rugby followers but people, years on?

Deneice Marshall, of Tamatea, suggests Canterbury Roses owing to its origins and Garden City status but does it tickle the testosterone?

"Roses because of all the floral tributes left in support of the Muslims in the community after the Christchurch terrorist attack," Marshall writes.

As the world watches, New Zealand grapples with assertions and denials on whether Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Sports Minister Grant Robertson are influencing the lobby for change.

As far as the human race goes, Ardern is winning comfortably, not just as the Kiwi leader but a global front runner although having to return to the starting block after false starts isn't helping the New Zealand brand.

I want to know where she, Robertson, NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew and Crusaders franchise counterpart Colin Mansbridge stand on the matter but, more importantly, how people rate the value of life with sport.

Oh, yes, sport is politics but it's still just a game, never mind the name.