Exeter Chiefs have controversially kept their ‘Chiefs’ branding but have retired their mascot following an internal review.
The Gallagher Premiership club’s board met on Wednesday following concerns the club’s branding was deemed racist.
There are currently three petitions on change.org, one of which – set up by fans of the club “Exeter Chiefs for Change” – attracted more than 3,500 signatures.
After a lengthy board meeting on Wednesday, Exeter released a statement to explain why they have opted to retain their Chiefs branding but not their mascot.
It read: “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.”
Campaigners ‘Exeter Chiefs for Change’ have expressed their disappointment at the decision.
They said in a strongly-worded statement: “It is incredibly disappointing that Exeter Chiefs has thrown away this opportunity to show itself as an inclusive club.
“Indigenous Peoples have made it clear time and time again all uses of their imagery in this way are offensive, harmful and unacceptable. Exeter’s refusal to fully listen to these pleas is tone deaf and sticks two fingers up not only to them but all minorities.
“We accept that the intention of the club for the branding was originally positive and not derogatory, but they know it is not perceived in that way, they are making a conscious decision to be intentionally offensive by continuing to use it.
“The club claims that the imagery honours and respects indigenous cultures, but if they respect them why won’t they listen to them?
“As fans we are disappointed and frustrated that this battle continues. As human beings we are horrified that we still live in a society where major sports club can treat indigenous peoples like this. It reflects badly on rugby, Devon and the UK and we should be thoroughly ashamed.
“The decision will not age well for the club – there is no doubt that the branding will eventually have to change as it is clear depictions like this are no different from gollies or other relics of the past.
“By refusing to deal with it properly now the club is lining themselves up for extensive reputational and commercial damage and bringing shame on all connected to the club in the meantime.
“It’s baffling that they deem this a price worth paying for selfishly and ignorantly clinging to a poorly-thought out logo that’s only been used for 20 of the club’s 150 years.”
NFL’s Washington franchise announced earlier this month that it will drop the team name ‘Redskins’ and will be known as the ‘Washington Football Team’ until a replacement nickname is decided.
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