English rugby club Exeter will stop playing their ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant during games as part of a rebrand to move away from a Native American theme that had come in for growing criticism.
The chant was traditionally played over loudspeakers on matchdays at the club’s Sandy Park stadium, but had been called “degrading” by a major Native American organization and is now dropped in the club’s latest stage to change its identity. While Exeter keeps their ‘Chiefs’ nickname, the club changed their logo in July and asked fans to stop wearing Native American headdresses to games. Exeter’s ‘Big Chief’ mascot was dropped in 2020 and Native American-themed names in stadium bars were also changed.
“Over the past three or four years people’s attitude towards (the club’s brand) has hardened, so now was the time to change that,” the Exeter chief executive said. Tony Rowe, to the Times newspaper in an interview published Thursday. “The world is changing and we must change with it.”
The chief executive of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) wrote a letter to Exeter last year asking it ‘to remove all ‘indigenous’ themed images associated with the club’s mascot branding. The letter pointed to “fan hijacking”. of culturally sacred headdresses and face paint, and the demeaning “tomahawk chop” rituals they perform during games.
Opposing teams had also taken issue with the team’s branding and had begun asking Exeter fans not to wear Native American-themed clothing at away games.
Earlier this year, Exeter said its rebranding would instead focus on an ancient Celtic tribe that encompassed a large area of south-west England for centuries before Roman occupation from 43AD.
Rowe, who helped the club create the Native American-themed brand in 1998, said fans would not be banned from wearing clothing with the old Exeter logo and theme during games.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it was 24 years of our branding, we still have shirts and things around,” Rowe said. “You can’t erase history, you can learn from it. We don’t intend to tell people they can’t wear clothes with the old logo on them.
Exeter’s first Premiership home game of the new season is against champions Leicester on September 10.
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