Ross Karl: Why the Crusaders' name was never going to change

OPINION: Don't be fooled by the long review or the elongated explanation of the new logo - the Crusaders were too married to their name to ever walk away from it.

The franchise should be commended for taking appropriate steps in the right direction with its new branding, but they were never going to change their name.

Emotional attachment and commercial realities have prevented that.

According to chief executive Colin Mansbridge, hundreds of names were considered, but none suited like the current one.

It suggests, through all the discussion groups and review papers, too many Crusaders stakeholders didn't want to let go of the past. 

When asked, Mansbridge wouldn't say what the names suggested were.   

That's probably a smart call, because revealing them would have been a PR disaster, if any caught the fancy of the public.

They don't want something similar to the 'Red Peak' design, from former Prime Minister John Key's failed flag referendum.

There was also a major commercial risk in upsetting Crusaders' fans, still besotted with the name, despite its unquestionable link to the brutal murder of Muslims.

Crowds have been down for years. Even playoff games are no longer guaranteed sell-outs and the loyal fans left couldn't be risked.

Now the process is over, like Key, they have a problem with how they are perceived.

You can replace the knights and swords with a new motif and slogan, created to attach wider cultural meaning to the new brand, but it's hard to avoid the notion they might be there to get away with keeping the name.

Let's hope they haven't cynically culturally appropriated the beautiful Māori proverb, "ma pango ma whero ka oti ai te mahi" to do it.

It's literally translated to "with black, and with red, we will achieve together" and refers to different cultures cooperating to achieve goals.

The new Crusaders logo.
The new Crusaders logo. Photo credit: New Zealand Rugby

What a marvellous idea, which would have attached to a new name and a fresh start beautifully.

The Crusaders now need to show that's not a smokescreen by using Māori language and culture throughout their stadium, their marketing and everyday lives.

They need to live this new brand, to show it's not tokenism, cynically put in place to keep the status quo, but not be the bad guy.

In hindsight, it seems so obvious this review would end this way. The clues have been laid down like breadcrumbs.

Last season's return of the parading horses was the first sign. They were taken away to appease the critics, as they figured out a way to bring them back.

Horses in provincial colours are an improvement on the old knights on horseback.

The problem was they were kept to give fans the game-day experience they were used to, so would always evoke an emotional reminder of a past that was in bad taste, but romanticised by many.

Watching from the stands when they returned last season was disturbing.

The fever pitch of the crowd had a dark undertone. The cheers were almost venomous, as if raising the middle finger to those threatening their beloved tradition.

They didn't want to let go.

The atmosphere was fuelled by their stirring anthem, 'Conquest of Paradise'. 

That song should be controversial too. It's the theme to a historically inaccurate movie about explorer Christopher Columbus, who was actually involved in attempted genocide throughout the Americas.

The second clue was temporarily keeping the name for 2020, under the guise of an Adidas deadline for their jersey design.

We were told the orders had already been sent, yet they were still able to remove the knight from their emblem in time - a curious contradiction.

Now the name remains, it obviously wasn't ever going, no matter the outcry.

Yesterday, media were invited to an embargoed press conference, two hours before an announcement that the name would stay.

The Crusaders wanted a chance to "explain their decision" before making it public

You don't have to explain something, unless you are worried you have got it wrong.

The Crusaders have kept the name their legacy was built on and, in so doing, have stayed on the wrong side of history. 

Ross Karl is Newshub's rugby reporter