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Wasps issue statement after open letter requests action over headdresses

By Ian Cameron
The Exeter Chiefs' controversial Native American mascot character. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

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Wasps have said they are to review their policies at the Ricoh Arena after a fan page of the rugby club posted an open letter requesting that the Coventry-based side take action over Exeter Chiefs fans wearing faux Native American headdresses in the stadium.

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The Wasps Report fan account state that the practice is cultural appropriation and is disrespectful to the Native American people and their culture, and that the use of costume headdresses by Exeter Chiefs fans should not be tolerated at the Ricoh this season.

The open letter states: “As supporters, we are so proud of the work this club has done over the past 18 months to highlight and educate around the subject of racism. From the phenomenal, emotive pieces on the club website with Paolo Odogwu and Jacob Umaga, to the taking of the knee before matches to protest racial inequality.

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“That we are a part of a club that is one of the games loudest voices on tackling inequality is a source of huge pride for the supporters.

“It is because of this trailblazing attitude that we are today calling for the club to consider action to tackle one of rugby’s most prominent examples of cultural appropriation. The branding of fellow league club Exeter Chiefs and the tradition amongst their fans to wear faux Native American headdresses. Whilst we are fully aware that as a club you cannot force another to change their name, we are calling on the club to ban the wearing of novelty Native American headdresses at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

“We support the fantastic work of @ExChiefs4Change and continue to applaud the great work the club is doing to help raise awareness of inequality. Together we can all work together to create an environment that is welcoming to all.”

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In response, Wasps have said they will review their policies in this area. Responding in kind on the social media platform, the official Wasps account stated: “We strive to be an inclusive and diverse club – it’s great that our supporters have not only recognised this through our actions and digital content, but have also now asked us to look at this matter.

“The club does not tolerate any form of discrimination, inequality or anti-social behaviour. We will undertake a review of our policies towards this and, once complete, provide an update.”

The comments were backed up by Wasps chief executive Stephen Vaughan, who said: “I have contacted the relevant people and I’m sure we will have some open, honest dialogue and find the right solution. We have been and are still undergoing a root and branch E, D &I (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) review. It’s an important issue so we mustn’t be afraid to meet these challenges head-on.”

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The request is the latest chapter in an ongoing row over Exeter Chiefs’ use of the Native American chief in their logo. Last year Exeter Chiefs For Change petitioned for the use of the Native American logo to be scrapped, prompting a review of its use by the Devon-based outfit.

Following their own review, Exeter stated that the “Content provided to the board indicated that the name Chiefs dated back into the early 1900s and had a long history with people in the Devon area. 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 club did however decide to ditch club mascot ‘Big Chief’.

“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. The club will be making no further comment on the matter.”

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Wasps issue statement after open letter requests action over headdresses

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