Exeter Chiefs set to discuss ‘racist’ branding

A petition calling for a change to branding has 3,000 signatures

Exeter Chiefs bosses have agreed to discuss overhauling their imagery in the wake of American sports teams such as the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians announcing plans to rebrand themselves.

The move stems from recent pressure to drop the racial caricatures of Indigenous Peoples which are currently used as team logos and mascots.

A Petition has been started by supporters of the club, which asks the club to drop their use of “offensive and harmful” branding.

Over 3,000 people have signed it in support of the argument that there is no place “for appropriation of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery that has no relation whatsoever to the history of the club or the city”.

The petition has been openly supported by Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, who encouraged his Twitter followers to add their signature.

The branding referred to by the petition includes the club crest, the ‘tomahawk chop’ performed by fans, and the club mascot, ‘Big Chief’, who carries a tomahawk and wears a headdress traditional to indigenous culture.

Dr Stephanie Pratt, a member of the Crow Creek Dakota (Sioux) tribe and a former associate professor at Plymouth University, commented to ITV News that she is “not saying that people should not have fun, it is just that particular way of showing Native American Indians is very offensive”.

She emphasised that the issue “is about the dignity of the indigenous cultures and communities, rather than running around with tomahawks”.

An open letter penned by Exeter Chiefs For Change, the group behind the petition, has been sent to and acknowledged by the board of Exeter Chiefs.

The group describe themselves as “a team of Exeter Chiefs supporters and anti-racism campaigners who met on social media when discussing the racist usage of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery by Exeter Chiefs.”

Throughout their active social media campaign, they have formed connections with the Indigenous-women-led organisation Iroquois Roots Rugby who have also directly contact Exeter Chiefs regarding the club branding.

Exeter Rugby Club was founded in 1871, yet following on from turning semi-professional the club was renamed to Exeter Chiefs in 1999, and imagery of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. There is no link to the club and Indigenous Peoples, and the petition suggests that the club could keep their name but change their imagery in order to refer to the Celtic Chiefs that used to inhabit Exeter instead.

Exeter Chiefs are yet to publicly comment, although it has been reported that club bosses are set to review the matter.

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