America’s largest Native group calls on Exeter Chiefs to change ‘offensive’ branding

Some Exeter Chiefs fans wear headdresses to matches. Credit: PA

Exeter Chiefs are facing renewed calls to replace their branding from America’s largest Native organisation.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has written to the Premiership club, calling it “offensive and harmful”.

The letter comes after rival club Wasps wrote to Premiership Rugby bosses in October, urging them to take action over Chiefs fans who wear headdresses at games.

NCAI chief executive Dante Desiderio said the Chiefs logo and Native “themes” were “stereotypical and dehumanising monikers”.

The club retired their 'Big Chief' mascot following a branding review in July 2020. Credit: PA

"We are writing to inform you that our objections extend to the branding employed by the Exeter Chiefs, specifically the logo, the venue names (e.g. the “Mohawk Bar”), the headdresses and other uses of Native “themed” collateral,” he said.

“The NCAI requests your support to retire all of the Native themed imagery associated with the mascot branding of the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club."

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chair Tom Ilube and England Rugby CEO Bill Sweeney were also copied as recipients of the email, which included links to more than a dozen educational texts on the subject.

The club officially retired their ‘Big Chief’ mascot following a  review in July 2020, but decided against changing their branding.

The NCAI has written to the club, urging them to change their logo and branding.

'Highly respectful'

“The board took the view that the use of the Chiefs logo was in fact highly respectful,” the club said at the time.

"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 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."

Exeter Chiefs will discuss the future of the logo at the club's AGM on Wednesday 24 November.