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All White?

A phenomenon of our times is organisations beating their critics to the punch, king-hitting themselves over anticipated social values issues.

It makes absolute sense to anticipate problems and respond early if you think it necessary. PR people keep a finger on the pulse to assess changes in the mood of supporters, stakeholders or the wider public.

But anticipation requires fine-tuned judgements about the scale, relevance, and credibility of the moods you detect. In these times of heightened social sensitivity, some organisations are not getting that right.

Take for example NZ Football’s announcement that it is reviewing the All Whites name as part of a programme of cultural inclusivity.

There was no hint of an issue about the All Whites name, not even from a source that mattered to football in NZ. The idea arose from within the cloister of NZ Football itself.

There was some broad context though. The Crusaders had folded early to peculiar questions following the Christchurch Mosque shootings. The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians changed their names in 2020.

Could criticism have arisen? Well yes. Consider the silliness that blindsided Colgate last year when it organised social media influencers to wear white pyjamas.

Is this the same as an actual credible risk? No. The name is defensible in its origins, and there is proof on the playing fields every weekend that the moniker does not dissuade people from playing.

NZ Football have spooked themselves into a review that will be at least a diversion of their energy at a time they said they can’t lose momentum following the Olympics, and at worst, divisive among its own Code.

What NZ Football could do instead is time a review of the rather plain and uninventive name for later, disconnected from its cultural review – and make it part of a refresh and rebrand for what is now New Zealand’s most popular sport.

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