Exeter Chiefs logo
Exeter say they have been known as the ‘Chiefs’ since the early 1900s and have used Native American imagery on their branding since 1999

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has called on Premiership Rugby club Exeter Chiefs to drop their Native American branding.

It is the latest pressure put on the Chiefs to change their branding.

Last month Wasps discouraged Exeter fans from wearing headdresses.

“The will of Indian Country is clear – Native ‘themed’ mascot imagery and the dehumanising stereotypes it perpetuates must go,” said Dante Desiderio, the NCAI’s chief executive.

In July 2020, Exeter decided to retain their name, logo and Native American branding around their Sandy Park ground despite a petition signed by more than 3,700 people, although the club did retire their ‘Big Chief’ mascot.

Exeter's former mascot 'Big Chief'
Exeter’s mascot ‘Big Chief’ was dropped by the club in July 2020 following objections by supporters

Issues around Exeter’s branding will be discussed by club members at their annual general meeting on Wednesday, 24 November.

In the United States, Washington’s American football team chose to drop their controversial Redskins name and logo, while Cleveland’s baseball team has changed its name from the Indians to the Guardians.

In a letter to Exeter ahead of this month’s meeting, Desiderio called on the club to drop their logo, the use of headdresses and venue names such as the ‘Wigwam Bar’.

He also asked the club to stop “other uses of Native ‘themed’ collateral”, such as the use of the ‘tomahawk chop’ by fans, which he described as “degrading”.

“Out of respect for tribal sovereignty, we ask that you heed the voices of tribal leaders representing hundreds of Tribal Nations and the organizations that serve their citizens – not the voices of a few select individuals – when working to understand where Indian Country broadly stands on this issue,” he added.

“Please know the NCAI is committed to working with the Exeter Rugby Club to aid in its mascot branding transition, including offering a tribal leader to share with your leadership, club members, and/or the Exeter community our perspective on this important issue.”

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