An open letter to the players of the Canterbury Crusaders

After the earthquakes, you were one of the things that helped us all hold on. You were a symbol of unity, of the ability of Cantabrians to pull together and get through what were then our darkest days. I’ve been a fan of Canterbury Rugby since I came to live in New Zealand, twenty-five years ago, when I had converted from Rugby League (the game my father played professionally, that I grew up loving) to Rugby Union; the religion of the country I chose. You were my team from the very beginning. Hell, I live in Southbridge now, so that practically makes us family. (We didn’t buy our house there because of Dan Carter, but it was a nice feeling when we realised the link.) You’re a part of me, a part of all of us, in a way that goes well beyond sport. You occupy an important place in our culture, in our society. You have mana. You earn it every time you pull the jersey on and go out to play for us.

Which is why I’m asking you to take the name Crusaders out of the frame for this season. Play just as Canterbury. You are the most successful team in the competition’s history: if any team can rock a single name, it’s you guys. And right now Cantabrians are desperately in need of unity, and of gestures that pull us all together. You can do that.

I’m not asking you to cut the word forever. That is a discussion we should have, all of us. Something to think about, argue about, consult about. Maybe there’s a better name that we haven’t thought of yet. Or maybe this one actually is right, in which case you can take it up again with a clear conscience.  And that sort of decision – a permanent choice – should have time and thought applied to it. So yep, lets put that one on hold for 2020.

But now is the time for gestures. For going with your heart and your gut. We have all been through this before, after the earthquakes – we remember the way that the good will, the determination to do something, anything, burned in us all like a flame. And how that passion was slowly dissipated into consultations and politics and bickering and pettiness and just the grind of trying to live each day in the aftermath, and put our lives back together. Remember? How we all promised each other that we’d do better, that we would rebuild not just the city, not just the buildings, but the community – that we wouldn’t let that unity, those feelings of common purpose, of wanting to make things right and new and safe, ever leave us.

But it did leave us. Not completely, but it did ebb. We had to get on with living. So things died down, and we settled into a new normal.

And here we are again. Shattered and horrified and angry and frightened. But also so full of love and determination to do better, to change, to reject the hate the brought this to us. Look around, at the vigils being held all over our country, at the outpouring of love and hope and determination. Look at how brightly we all shine!

We have a tiny window of time when we can do something important. A tiny amount of time before exhaustion sets in, and good intentions get ground down by bureaucracy. Before we start getting annoyed with each other again. A tiny moment when gestures carry immense weight.

The tetraskelion is an ancient religious symbol that appeared in both Eurasian and Indian cultures for thousands of years. It was a symbol of good luck, of prosperity. We know it today as the swastika. The Crusades were a series of campaigns waged primarily against Muslims, although they also slaughtered Jews, Cathars, and fellow Catholics along the way. On Friday, fifty Muslims – men, women and children – were murdered in the name of white supremacy. In our city. Our people.

Right now I don’t think I could bear to hear anyone cheering for crusaders.

I’m addressing this appeal directly to you, the players, because you have more power than you realise. Please. Make this gesture. Play without that name for this season. I know you don’t mean “crusader” in the sense of religious hatred. But he did. And they are our people who have been attacked. Our people who are terrified, who don’t feel safe any more. If the move comes from officials, if it comes from the top, then it will take weeks, months, and there will be people muttering about political correctness gone mad, and how everyone knows that’s not what the word means. We will have missed the moment when it matters most. But if you guys take that decision, if you are the ones making this gesture as a way of saying publicly that this is not who we are, not who you are, then it will send a message. That Muslim Cantabrians are not alone. That we see their fear, and we want to make them feel safe again. That we stand with them. That they are us.

You don’t realise how much power you have. How much you are admired. People look up to you, especially boys. Show them that words matter. That kindness matters. That these are our people too. Please.

Gestures matter. Words matter. For Canterbury to play without the word Crusaders for this season will cost you almost nothing – not pride, not recognition, not sponsorship. But right now, right here, it will carry enormous weight, and has the potential to make an enormous difference to all of us. You have that power. Take it. Please.


To everyone else:

I’m one distinctly insignificant person, and this blog doesn’t have a huge reach. If you read this and feel the same way, if you know someone on the team, or even if you just have an online or media presence then send it to them, repost, tweet, do whatever you can. Pillage it and rewrite it, whatever. Kia kaha.

One Reply to “An open letter to the players of the Canterbury Crusaders”

  1. Hi Joanne,

    Thank you for these gifted and giving words which yes, I’ve forwarded on, including to two one-eyed Cantabrians in my own family…


    John Ewen

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