In 2019 in response to demands for the Canterbury Crusaders to change their name and logo, following the Christchurch shootings, I wrote the following letter:

“The ever offended of Generation Snowflake have now set their sights on the Canterbury Crusaders – seeing their name as politically incorrect.

The ‘Crusaders’ stand for a righteous struggle. ‘Knight’ imagery is meant to characterize chivalry and nobility – Knights are supposed to fight for and protect the weak… surely the exact values one would wish to support and promote?

Some imagery derives from the religious crusades of the Middle East. But people conflate this struggle with the recent tragedy in Christchurch; the only real link is victimology.

“The Crusades” are not synonymous with an oppressive Western culture; rather they were the victims.

The typical thinking about the crusades is focused on a small segment of the struggle; those of around the 13th century when armies from Europe tried to reclaim the Jewish and Christian “Holy Sites” and to protect the rights of pilgrimage. Remember that these religions started in Jerusalem and their origin was taken from them and desecrated.

But the Crusades actually started long before that and continued long after. The Crusades started when Islamic forces invaded Spain in about 711. The invading Islamic Omayyad Empire dominated Spain for hundreds of years – the caliphate was the 5th largest empire in the world of the time. The huge majority of battles were fought on European soil. For hundreds of years Islamic expansion continued with imperialistic, aggressive incursions into Europe – right to the gates of Vienna. In a classical sense the final victory was not achieved until the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The survival of Western civilization, as we know it, is in part due to the survival of Europe.

An unnecessary change in the Crusaders name, due to a misplaced sense of political correctness and a poor understanding of history is unwarranted. It should be with some pride and appreciation that we regard the values arising from the concepts of chivalry, nobility and fighting for the dispossessed.

When we look back on history – look at what has been achieved rather than constantly looking for guilt. We should learn from, rather than try to ‘fix history’ – by obliterating any symbols, or records, of things we choose to be offended by.”

This letter was published in the Howick and Pakuranga Times on April 8th, 2019. The New Zealand Herald declined to publish it.

We are now almost three years down the track and there is time to pause and reflect: the Canterbury Crusaders did not change their name but did adopt a new, and by my opinion better logo, so some good did come out of this.

But what about the claims made at the time? That people would be “harmed” by the Crusader brand. To arrive at our answer let us consider a similar situation.

The Saracens Football Club are a UK senior rugby club based in London. They were established in 1876, about the same time as the establishment of the Canterbury Rugby Union (CRU) in 1879. The name of the club, “Saracens”, was chosen in part because of a friendly rivalry with another local club – also the “Crusaders”, who were established ‘just up the road’. Such rivalries and team names were readily used in more tolerant times. Evidence that differences in name and rivalry do not have to be ‘harmful’ is that the clubs amalgamated in 1878 to form the organisation (still) known today as the Saracens.

The Saracens were primarily Arab Muslims, but also other Muslims as referred to by Christian writers in Europe during the Middle Ages. Within the mythology of the Saracens RFC, they wanted to choose figures of robust strength and endurance – supported by values such as honour and loyalty – with a romantic nod to the past – motivations analogous to the choosing of the Canterbury Crusaders brand.

However, the recent behaviour of some Saracens, the people after whom the Saracen club was named romantically, has been tragic in the UK. Examples include:

  • In 2017 (22 March) we have the “Westminster Attack” by ‘a Saracen’ who killed four people with a car and then stabbed a police officer.
  • Later in 2017 (22 May) the Manchester Arena Bombing by ‘a Saracen’ killing 22 and injuring 139 – many children as young as eight.
  • Later in 2017 (3rd June) the London Bridge Attack – eight killed and 48 wounded by Saracens.

The list continues for every year since. The point here is – has any “harm”, e.g. psychological trauma, been attributed to any victims or the relatives of any victims since these killings, by the name of a rugby club?

Were the RFC Saracens pressured to change their name in case there was harm to the thousands of victims (the dead and the families left behind)?

And, in 2022, can any “harm” be placed at the feet of the Canterbury Crusaders for retaining their name?

The answer in both cases is “No”.

So why the pressure on the Canterbury Crusaders? Were people just making up claims to force a change? Or was it the shameful and cynical virtue signalling that goes with the phrase “never let a crisis go to waste”?

That the review of the brand name occurred gained the Canterbury Crusaders little as even when they adopted a new and ‘inclusive’ logo they were accused of ‘cultural appropriation’.

What the administration failed to appreciate then and should appreciate now, is that whatever they did would never be enough and never will be.

There are people who still want the “Crusaders” as icons of Western, Christian chivalry, a cultural heritage, to be “cleansed” from New Zealand. As the Maoists say, “the Four Olds, all must go”:  Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs.

black framed eyeglasses and black pen

Dr Michael John Schmidt

I left NZ after completing postgraduate studies at Otago University (BSc, MSc) in molecular biology, virology, and immunology to work in research on human genetics in Australia. While doing this work,...