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The branding debate that has split Exeter Chiefs fans

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The petition for the Exeter Chiefs to drop their use of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery has sparked a hectic discussion amongst online fans, a conversation that many feel should have taken place a while ago.


Momentum sprung from the Black Lives Matter movement which recently encouraged people to educate themselves on the significance of race, and it has now focused on the alleged offence Exeter cause by using Native American imagery for their logo and mascot. 

The demand for the Devon club to change grew when NFL outfit the Washington Redskins announced they will undergo a review of the team’s name. Baseball’s Cleveland Indians have also been targeted. 

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Exeter and England midfielder Henry Slade guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series
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Exeter and England midfielder Henry Slade guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

A petition was launched last week for Exeter to do the same, which passed 2,000 signatures on Wednesday. The majority of voices on social media are in support of such change, but some have highlighted that Exeter were not intentionally being racist when they adopted this branding in 1999.

Instead, it is supposed to represent the bravery and strength of the people they are depicting in their images. 

The petition’s website addressed these issues and explained why this is offensive. It said: “Exeter Chiefs is a fantastic club that has seen a huge amount of success on the pitch and done a lot of good off it for decades. 

“It’s one of Exeter’s most well-known brands and has put the city firmly on the sporting map. The club MUST address its use of offensive and harmful imagery and branding.


“There is no place in a predominantly white British environment for the appropriation of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery that has no relation whatsoever to the history of the club, or the city. 

“The Chiefs brand dates back to 1999, a decision that was not taken with racism in mind, but one that is now sat increasingly awkwardly at the pinnacle of English rugby.

“The stylised Chief on the club’s crest, the Big Chief mascot, the headdresses and tomahawks adorning the supporters, and the Tomahawk Chop chant are all examples of cultural appropriation of the Indigenous Peoples who were all but wiped out by white European settlers and who still suffer extreme examples of racial prejudice today across the world.”

Furthermore, it has frequently been said that the Chiefs do not actually need to change their name, rather align the branding with something more local, much in the same way the Glasgow Warriors have done by using a logo that portrays their ancient ‘West Coast Warriors’. 


Pressure had been mounting on officials at Exeter to address this issue, and it was recently announced that they will conduct a review into the use of Native American branding. 


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