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Exeter Chiefs statement: Club branding

By Ian Cameron

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Exeter Chiefs are set to revisit the controversy around their club branding after meeting with the membership of Exeter Rugby Club at their AGM.

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There has been an ongoing row around the use of their Native American themed branding, which critics have claimed amounts to ‘cultural appropriation’ which is defined as ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’

Following a 2020 review, the team’s mascot – Big Chief –  was retired. The club continues to use a Native American in their club insignia.

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Guess the celebrity Rose | Karen Carney | England Rugby
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Guess the celebrity Rose | Karen Carney | England Rugby

More recently complaints have surrounded the use of headdresses by fans in rival stadia.

This afternoon the club issued a statement saying that they are once again going to review their branding internally, suggesting another change may be on the cards.

“After consulting and listening in depth to the membership of Exeter Rugby Club at Wednesday’s Annual General Meeting, the Board of Directors will now go away and further consult with its stakeholders, partners and professional advisors to decide what the club will do next in terms of the club’s branding.

“The board will be meeting within the next few weeks to come to a decision.

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“At this time, the club will be making no further comment.”

A campaign group – The Exeter Chiefs For Change – have been catalyst for change regarding the branding which they have described as ‘harmful’.

The group released the following statement this evening: “The news that the Exeter Chiefs board will make a decision on the future of the club’s racially inappropriate branding in the next few weeks is not so much a step forward as a tip-toe, but it is nevertheless a move in the right direction.

“However, this issue has dragged on for long enough: we know fans are fed up with hearing about it and the club must be fed up with being asked about it, but neither will be as fed up as Indigenous peoples are, having to continue tirelessly campaigning for the simple right to not have their culture caricatured and misrepresented.

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“Exeter Chiefs is so much more than a logo: there was a long history before it and there will be a long future after it There’s so much to be proud of with this club and we know no one wants it or rugby to go on being tarnished with this controversy. particularly when we know what devastating effects failing to deal with racial equality issues properly can have on an organisation.

“It’s vital that discussions centre purely around Indigenous peoples as the only people who really matter in this. Their will is clear, as confirmed by the intervention from National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) earlier this month which specifically and directly asked Exeter Chiefs to end the branding.”

“We so often hear about rugby values and now is the time to demonstrate them and respect the people we are claiming to honour. There is no other way forward that isn’t catastrophic for the club and all associated with it,” the statement concludes.

The Chiefs aren’t the only club to face pressure regarding their branding. In 2020, Super Rugby’s Crusaders dropped the knights on horseback logo from their branding.

The franchise faced criticism for using a name heavily tied to religious wars that were waged between the 10th and 13th centuries following the Christchurch shooting earlier that year.

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Exeter Chiefs statement: Club branding

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