The New Zealand national football team could drop its “All Whites” nickname following a review by the national federation into cultural diversity.
The national rugby team famously plays in a black strip – and is known throughout world sport as the All Blacks – but the football team predominantly wear white and took on the “All Whites” name during qualifying for the 1982 World Cup finals. A black kit could not be worn in football as it was not compatible with the protocol that traditionally had referees wearing that colour.
That All Whites name, however, is now being evaluated as part of a wide-ranging project aimed at modernisation and inclusivity.
“As with many other national bodies, New Zealand Football (NZF) is on a journey around cultural inclusivity and respecting the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” the NZF said, referring to the treaty between the British crown and Maori chiefs that was signed in 1840.
“As part of our delivery and sustainability project announced last year, we are in the process of working with stakeholders across the game, as well as people from outside football, looking at all areas of the organisation to make sure they are fit for purpose in 2021 and beyond.
“It is too early in the process to speak about any outcomes but this is an important piece of work as we strive to be the most inclusive sport in Aotearoa.”
The New Zealand Super rugby side Canterbury Crusaders changed their logo in 2019 from a knight brandishing a sword to a Maori motif after questions about whether references to wars between Muslims and Christians were appropriate.
Teams in American sports have already undergone name changes, with NFL side Washington dropping the word “Redskins” in 2020 after going by the name for 86 years. Major sponsors had threatened to pull funding from the NFL team unless it considered renaming itself. Baseball’s Cleveland team have also announced that they are replacing the name “Indians” with “Guardians” at the end of the 2021 season. The Indians name had been first adopted in 1915 but long criticised by Native American groups.
The New Zealand football team are ranked 119th in the world and have failed to qualify for the past two World Cups. Former Blackburn, Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers defender Ryan Nelsen said that the name should go if it offended even a small minority.
“Just because it’s been around for [40 years] doesn’t mean it’s right,” he told Radio NZ. “We should be having this conversation about inclusivity. [The name] shouldn’t have any negative connotations at all.”
Some fans, however, are already using social media to register their vocal opposition to any change.