Exeter Chiefs settle 'racial' branding saga
UPDATE: English Premiership club Exeter have revealed they will retain their Chiefs branding but will ditch their club mascot after complaints about its “harmful imagery”.
An Exeter supporters’ online petition had gathered more than 3 500 signatures, calling for an end to the club’s “harmful imagery and branding”.
*Read: Exeter consider rebranding
Two more petitions have been launched arguing against any change however, with club fans split over whether the Chiefs Native American imagery carries offence.
But now after a lengthy board meeting on Wednesday, Exeter have opted to retain their Chiefs moniker and retire their ‘Big Chief’ mascot.
“The board took the view that the use of the Chiefs logo was in fact highly respectful,” an Exeter statement said.
“It was noted over the years we have had players and coaches from around the world with a wide range of nationalities and cultures.
“At no time have any players, coaches or their families said anything but positive comments about the branding or culture that exists at the club.
“The one aspect which the board felt could be regarded as disrespectful was the club’s mascot ‘Big Chief’ and as a mark of respect have decided to retire him.”
Reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs have been criticised for using Native American imagery and the “tomahawk chop” chant at Arrowhead Stadium.
Major League baseball’s Cleveland Indians dropped their mascot in 2018, later indicating they could also change their name.
The issue of offensive team branding has also been a hot topic in the United States, with the shocking death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer adding more fuel to the debate.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins recently dropped their badge and branding, taking on the temporary new name of Washington Football Team after growing criticism in recent years.
*Read the full statement below:
The Exeter Rugby Club board today underwent a detailed review of the club’s branding following issues raised by the group Exeter Chiefs 4 Change.
The process has included looking into lengthy submissions from those who wish to see immediate change and from those who are content that the current branding is not disrespectful to indigenous groups.
A detailed dossier of all evidence was compiled ahead of today’s meeting and was seen by all members of the board and reviewed.
Part of the club’s review has seen the club engage with its sponsors and key partners to seek their views – and they have also listened to the response of our supporters, the wider rugby community and certain sections from the Native American community, all of whom have provided us with detailed observations in letters, emails, social content and videos.
Content provided to the board indicated that the name Chiefs dated back into the early 1900s and had a long history with people in the Devon area.
The board took the view that the use of the Chiefs logo was in fact highly respectful. It was noted over the years we have had players and coaches from around the world with a wide range of nationalities and cultures. At no time have any players, coaches or their families said anything but positive comments about the branding or culture that exists at the club.
The one aspect which the board felt could be regarded as disrespectful was the club’s mascot ‘Big Chief’ and as a mark of respect have decided to retire him.
The club will be making no further comment on the matter.