Exeter adopted the Chiefs moniker in 1999 and had a club mascot nicknamed Big Chief who was retired as 'a mark of respect' last season
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Wasps have asked Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to address the wearing of Native American headdresses by Exeter Chiefs fans, branding the practice as “cultural appropriation”.
Ahead of hosting Exeter this Saturday at the Coventry Building Society Arena, the club released a statement explaining that they had been asked to review such fancy-dress items, as well as “other cultural signifiers”, by a group of their own supporters.
Although they have decided against barring fans in “faux Native American attire” for now, Wasps are keen for a sport-wide ban in the future and are discouraging fans from wearing it immediately.
“Many topics and behaviours which were once tolerated, such as cultural appropriation, are no longer acceptable,” read their statement.
“Just because something isn’t offensive to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive. Even though we do not want to create a professionally offended society, we do need to recognise that times and opinions change.”
Wasps’ press release, published on Tuesday afternoon, outlined previous examples of action being by sporting organisations in America to avoid cultural appropriation.
In the National Football League (NFL), Washington Redskins became known as the Washington Football Team in 2020. The Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL) were renamed as the Elks in July.
“Respect for all cultures is a crucial part of including everyone in this amazing game. We at Wasps believe that cultural appropriation, ‘the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture’ and, therefore, the wearing of faux Native American headdresses has the potential to cause offence and doesn’t align with our values.
“However, having taken counsel on this issue, it is clear that to drive real change we need a sport wide position to be reached. We have, therefore, approached Premiership Rugby, the RFU and the RFU’s newly-formed diversity and inclusion working group to ask that this issue is formally addressed.
“At this current time, we will not be issuing an arena wide ban on the wearing of faux Native American attire, as one club acting in isolation has the potential to cause further division and uncertainty. However, we do not support the wearing of such items, discourage supporters from wearing them and will be revisiting this decision in due course.
“Wasps want to be part of positive equality, diversity and inclusivity change, and will continue to encourage the entire rugby community to take action against inequality and other forms of discrimination. We are committed to doing more to tackle racism and to championing diversity in sport.”
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A Premiership Rugby spokesperson said that the organisation was “committed to working with our member clubs to make the league more inclusive and welcoming for all.
“There is regular dialogue about issues affecting rugby and wider society, and we will take the opportunity to discuss the questions raised so that clubs may share their view.
Both Exeter Chiefs and the Exeter Chiefs Supporters Group declined to comment but an RFU spokesperson told Telegraph Sport that the governing body “encourages all clubs to carefully consider their role in continuing to improve diversity and inclusion.”
“Fan wear is a decision for each individual club and we would actively encourage clubs to engage with their fans and help provide historical context and education so that fans can make informed choices.”
The RFU’s diversity and inclusion working group is chaired by Genevieve Glover, who warned last summer that awkward conversations lay ahead.
“Let’s be clear, this is about action and change,” she said. “It will be difficult. It will feel uncomfortable. We will disagree. We will hopefully agree at times also, but change will happen.”