New Zealand's 'All Whites' mull name change to avoid race link

Wellington (AFP) –


New Zealand Football is reportedly looking at dropping the "All Whites" nickname used by the national men's team as part of a diversity drive, sparking intense debate among fans and former players.

The moniker refers to the team's white playing strip but Radio New Zealand reported it was under review because the governing body feared "All Whites" could be seen as carrying racial undertones.

New Zealand Football declined to comment directly on the nickname but said all aspects of the game were being examined as part of "a journey around cultural inclusivity".

"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 said.

The All Whites' name was first used during qualification for the 1982 World Cup as a nod to both the team kit and New Zealand's famed All Blacks rugby union team.

Other Kiwi teams have similar labels, such as White Ferns (women's cricket), Black Caps (men's cricket), Black Sticks (field hockey, both genders) and Tall Blacks (men's basketball).

Former New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen supported the change, saying did not want the team associated with any name that had the potential to carry negative racial connotations.

"Even it displeases a tiny minority then that for me is enough to change it," Nelsen told Radio New Zealand.

Respected sports broadcaster Jason Pine said the proposed change was "utterly ridiculous" and risked jettisoning a proud aspect of the team's history.

"All Whites is a fan-assigned nickname based entirely on the colour of the playing strip," he tweeted.

"It's like the Boston Red Sox. They have red socks. The All Whites have white shirts. That's it."

New Zealand's Canterbury Crusaders Super Rugby team considered changing their name in the wake of the 2019 mosques attack by a white supremacist that killed 51 Muslim worshippers in the team's home city of Christchurch.

They eventually kept the name but ditched their logo of a sword-wielding medieval crusader.

Cleveland's major league baseball team announced last month that they would no longer be known as the Indians, instead adopting the name Guardians.

Also in the United States, gridiron's Washington team last year dumped their Redskins nickname and Indian head logo for a yet-to-be-determined replacement.

English Premiership rugby club Exeter last year decided to keep their Chiefs branding but dropped their "disrespectful" Big Chief club mascot.