A campaign group says it is ‘wrong’ that money from the Government designed to help sports clubs during the coronavirus pandemic will go to Exeter Chiefs while they continue to use Native American imagery.

Last week, the Government announced a £300 million rescue package for sports in England affected by the absence of spectators because of Covid-19, with rugby union receiving £135 million.

It has been announced today by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that spectators will be allowed to return to watch their favourite teams in stadiums in areas designated as tier one or two under the revised coronavirus tier system from December 2.

Exeter Chiefs For Change – who are lobbying for the Chiefs to ‘drop its harmful use of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery & branding’ – have welcomed the cash injection.

However, the group believes that the reigning European and Premiership rugby champions should make a commitment to drop their branding now they will benefit from Government funds.

An Exeter Chiefs for Change spokesperson said: “It’s great news that the government is stepping in to provide much-needed financial support to sports clubs.

“However, as part of this funding goes to rugby and then in turn down to Exeter Chiefs, we cannot let the pandemic and financial struggles blind us to issues of right and wrong, and it is wrong that the government fund something which is unnecessarily causing proven harm to others without a commitment from the club that they are rectifying that.

“Native Americans have made it clear that Exeter Chiefs’ Native-style logo and other branding aspects (including the use of headdresses and the ‘Tomahawk chop’ chant) are offensive and harmful to them.

“It has been proven time and time again that they have no positive impacts, whatever the original intent, but that they do extensive harm by reinforcing stereotypes, dehumanising Indigenous peoples, damaging mental health and undermining representation on other issues.

“It is hard to imagine that any of these things would be allowed to continue if they were causing this level of offence and harm to another minority, yet the lower profile of Native Americans means that they have to put up with being treated with less respect or consideration than we would offer others – this is clearly a form of racism and discrimination.

“It is completely wrong that Exeter Chiefs continue to stand by their branding and it is completely inappropriate that government money should be used to help fund and perpetuate this racism and discrimination against a group of people who have repeatedly pleaded for it to stop.

“The government must insist that the funding for Exeter Chiefs has to come with a condition that the club commits now to retiring the branding within the next few years.”

Exeter Chiefs’ former mascot, Big Chief

Exeter Chiefs declined to comment.

The club began the defence of the Premiership title with a comprehensive 33-3 win at Harlequins on Friday night.

In July, the campaign group was critical of the Sandy Park club’s decision to ‘only retire’ their Big Chief mascot, claiming it was ‘tone-deaf’ and stuck ‘two fingers up’ to all minorities.

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In August, BT Sport revealed they would not include Exeter Chiefs’ famous tomahawk chop chant in their fake crowd noise during games after saying it would not be ‘respectful’.

Even local MP Ben Bradshaw has waded into the debate, claiming that some of the club’s board were ‘in denial’.

“I don’t think the board gets it,” he said.

“The forward-looking and younger fans are furious and those who are in denial there’s a problem don’t want any change.

“If the Washington Football Team in America can change their long standing name, you would have thought those in charge of the Exeter club might take this issue a little more seriously.

“It’s not the image Exeter as a city wants to project to the world.”

In response, the club said the name ‘Chiefs’ dated back to the early 1900s and had a long history with people around Devon.

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

“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.”





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