There are many good reasons to change the branding. Here are the top ten

Reason 1: Indigenous peoples have asked for it to stop

Time and time again, Indigenous groups have called for all Native-style branding to be retired. It’s their culture and their history, so theirs are the only views that matter. If we respect them, we listen to them.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) first formally started campaigning against Native imagery being used by sports teams in 1968.

Many individuals and groups have also spoken specifically about Exeter Chiefs’ branding for several years. Most recently, the NCAI wrote to the club setting out their objections and directly asking the club to change. Read their letter here

Hear from some of the Indigenous peoples asking Exeter Chiefs to change the branding here

Reason 2: This isn’t just about offence – Native-style branding causes proven harm to Indigenous communities

Extensive studies show only negative impacts from Native branding. The American Psychological Association (APA) summarises some of the issues as:

  • it undermines the ability of American Indian Nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality and traditions
  • it presents stereotypical images of American Indians. Such mascots are a contemporary example of prejudice by the dominant culture against a racial and ethnic minority group
  • it is a form of discrimination against American Indian Nations that can lead to negative relations between groups 

[taken from: https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots]

One of the most recent research papers, published in 2020, undertook a comprehensive review of all previous studies on the impacts of Native-themed mascots and found “only negative psychosocial effects”. You can read an interview with one of the authors here, read a summary of the findings here and read the full paper here.

Native-style branding erodes Indigenous peoples’ own cultural identity.

Reason 3: Native-themed branding contributes to other major challenges faced by Indigenous communities

Native-style branding might not seem one of the biggest things Indigenous peoples have to worry about, but it actually contributes to those other severe issues, including high suicide rates and MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls).

As the research in reason 2, above, shows, Native-style imagery perpetuates outdated racial stereotypes and discrimination. This impacts well-being and mental health, particularly amongst youth, leading to higher levels of depression and high suicide rates and substance abuse rates in Native American communities.

When the Cleveland baseball team in the USA announced they’d be changing their name from Cleveland Indians to Cleveland Guardians, Indigenous community leaders said it would reduce suicide rates. Read more here

Indigenous women experience violence, trafficking, sexual assault and murder at rates many times those of non-Indigenous women. Dehumanisation is a factor in that, which is another effect of the stereotypes perpetuated in mascots and logos. Learn more by listening to this BBC World Service documentary from 2020 on the issue of MMIWG

Dehumanisation and racial stereotyping causes marginalisation. This undermines representation, for example when Indigenous views are excluded or dismissed in consultations, for example the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Reason 4: Retaining the Native American branding is commercially damaging

Brands, especially those with a larger profile and international reach, are increasingly wary of ensuring their commercial associations are without controversy.

We know Exeter Chiefs did not manage to attract a new external main shirt sponsor this season. Read City AM’s reporting of how the branding might have impacted Exeter Chiefs’ sponsorship prospects

Changing the branding could open up new sponsorship opportunities with organisations who currently overlook Exeter Chiefs as they don’t want to be associated with the ongoing controversy or the negative media and social media coverage that entails.

Reason 5: A rebrand would be a great opportunity to learn about and celebrate chiefs from our own history

Exeter and Devon are rich in history and culture. A rebrand would be a brilliant opportunity for the club to work with the local community to create a new iconic logo and brand that firmly places Exeter on the global sporting map.

Check out some of the ideas for alternative branding, including lots using local history

Reason 6: Change is inevitable: the issue is not going away

This is not a vote on whether the branding is offensive and harmful, but it is a vote on whether to deal with this now or keep it dragging on forever.

We know from how this issue has played out for clubs in the USA that it only gets worse until they change. Media coverage and people speaking out against the branding has increased substantially over the last year, and even more so in the last few months.

Watch our video summarising some of the media coverage and voices calling for change 

Reason 7: Discussions about the branding are causing division amongst fans

Rugby should be about respect and everyone being welcome. It brings people together, and branding and a mascot are supposed to do exactly that.

Let’s put the division behind us, focus on what unites us and show those rugby values.

Reason 8: Being exposed to racial stereotypes in Native-style mascots and logos increases the stereotyping of other minority groups

Native-style branding doesn’t just impact Indigenous peoples: it’s impacting all of us, as research studies have shown that exposure to a Native-style sports mascot increases stereotyping of other ethnic minority groups.  [https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-06157-002]

There are long overdue efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life, so something which is increasing stereotyping needs to end.

Reason 9: The debate is a distraction – let’s just get back to the rugby

We want to be as proud of our team off the pitch as we are on it. The ongoing negative media coverage and social media noise is a distraction from everything else great the club is doing and will keep chipping away, undermining the club’s success.

We know we’re all fed up of hearing about the branding and want to just get back to enjoying the rugby. The season looks like it’s shaping up to be one of the most open we’ve had for years – let’s focus on that!

Reason 10: It’s a bad look for Exeter and Devon

We’re incredibly proud to be Devonians – it’s one of the best places in the world. There are so many things to love about our city and county and huge numbers of people chose to holiday, visit and move here for all those reasons. The councils and Exeter Live Better have worked hard to help increase business investment and success, employment and education opportunities and more.

We want to be known and celebrate our history, culture, countryside, beaches, food and drink and more. We don’t want to be known for our rugby club’s controversial branding or be thought of as people who can’t embrace the need for change.