Exeter Chiefs to ditch Native American branding

Move comes after majority of fans called for change via email feedback

Exeter Chiefs are preparing to ditch their Native American branding after calls from a majority of their supporters to make a change. In a statement Exeter stopped short of confirming their future plans but said a decision on “what the club will do next” would be forthcoming “within the next few weeks.”

Several members of the club’s board are understood to be strongly in support of rebranding after complaints that the existing imagery is disrespectful to indigenous people in North America. While no formal vote was taken at the club’s annual general meeting in midweek, it is understood that 70 per cent of the feedback from fans via email backed a branding change.

There is mounting pressure on the club, champions of both Europe and the Premiership in 2020, to follow the example of several US-based professional sports teams who have changed their names or iconography. The “Chiefs” moniker, which was officially adopted in 1999 and has been used as an informal nickname for West Country first teams for the past century, is not perceived as a problem but the club has already retired its Big Chief mascot. Last month, meanwhile, Wasps asked Exeter fans not to wear headdresses when attending the Premiership game between the clubs in Coventry.

Dante Desiderio, the chief executive of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), has also written to Exeter’s chairman, Tony Rowe, to make clear the current imagery and branding “harms native people through the offensive stereotypes it promotes”.


As recently as last month, however, Rowe told the Guardian that the club were “not trying to belittle the image of ancestry of anyone” and said 10,000 people had written in support when the issue flared up two years ago. But the public mood has since shifted and while Rowe insists the controversy has not yet affected the commitment or goodwill of sponsors there is recognition within the club that this might not last indefinitely. The estimated cost of a full rebranding exercise, incorporating a new badge, playing kit and relaunching the wild west-themed bars and decor at Sandy Park, is in the region of £700,000. – Guardian