A timeline of major events for Exeter Chiefs and the international campaign to end race based mascots.

1871: Exeter Rugby Club founded

c.1895: First recorded mention of Exeter’s first team being informally referred to as “chiefs”, after several years of informal use at other rugby teams in the region as well  

1968: National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) launches campaign to address stereotypes found in print and other media

1970: Protests against the Cleveland Indians use of the “Chief Wahoo” mascot take place in Cleveland, Ohio

1985: Atlanta Braves retire their “Chief Noc-A-Homa” mascot

1987-88: The first year of a rugby union league competition in England. Exeter Rugby Club begin in Division 3

1989: Kansas City Chiefs retire their “Warpaint” mascot, a horse ridden by a man wearing a full headdress (this is brought back from 2009 but instead ridden by a cheerleader)

1993: National Congress of American Indians issues a resolution which “denounces the use of any American Indian name or artifice associated with team mascots” 

1995-96: Exeter Rugby Club play in Division 4, the lowest level of club rugby in England at that time

1998: Approximately 200 anti-“Indian” mascot activists from around the country converge at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana for the first national Conference on the Elimination of Racist Mascots

1999: Exeter Rugby Club rebrand to Exeter Chiefs, using the current logo for the first time

1999: The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, a consortium of twelve federally recognized Indian tribes, issues a resolution calling for the end of “the use of depictions of and cultural references to American Indians as mascots, logos, and team nicknames in Wisconsin public schools”

1999: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) pass a resolution calling for the end of the use of Native American names, images, and mascots

2001: The US Commission on Human Rights calls for an end to the use of Native images and team names in non-Native schools

2004: Dr Stephanie Fryberg publishes one of the largest research reports into the impacts of Native mascots, “The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots

2005: The American Psychological Association (APA) passes a resolution recommending “the immediate retirement of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organisations” 

2006: First Exeter Chiefs game at their current home at Sandy Park

2010: Exeter Chiefs are promoted to the Premiership (the highest level of club rugby in England) for first time, finishing 8th

2011-12: Exeter Chiefs finish 5th and qualify for Heineken Cup (the highest level of club rugby in Europe)

May 2012: Oregan State Board of Education adopts a rule prohibiting Oregon public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots

2013: A database published by the NCAI reveals that around one third of schools and colleges using Native mascots and names have changed their branding in the last 50 years

2013: The NCAI pass Resolution #TUL-13-050: “Commending Efforts to Eliminate Racist Stereotypes in Sports and Calling on the U.S. President and Congress to Combat These Continuing Affronts to Native Peoples

2013: The Cleveland Indians begin to use their “Block C” design as their primary logo over “Chief Wahoo” which was officially retired in October 2018

2013-14: Exeter Chiefs win the Anglo-Welsh Cup in the club’s first major title victory

2014: The NCAI pass Resolution #ANC-14-018: “Support for the Elimination of Race-Based Native Logos, Mascots, and Names by State Athletic Associations Receiving Federal Funds” and #ATL-14-011: “Urging the U.S. Secretary of Education to Take Substantive Action Regarding Schools with “Native” Sports Stereotypes

2015-16: Exeter Chiefs finished 2nd in league and reach the Premiership Final, losing to Saracens. They also reach the Heineken Cup quarter final

August 2016: The first article specifically discussing Exeter Chiefs’ branding is released by Dr Rachel Herrmann

2016-17: Exeter Chiefs become Premiership champions for the first time after finishing 2nd in the league and beating Wasps in the final 

July 2017: A blog written by Alex Shaw is published discussing the Exeter Chiefs’ branding

January 2018: An article in Devon Live by Dr Stephanie Pratt is published discussing the Exeter Chiefs’ branding

May 2018: An article in the New York Times is published discussing the Exeter Chiefs’ branding 

2017-18: Exeter Chiefs finish the league season in 1st place for the first time but lose to Saracens in the final.  They win the Anglo-Welsh Cup

July 2019: The state of Maine passes “An Act To Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools“. This bill prohibits a public school from having or adopting a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school

June 2020: Exeter Chiefs for Change formed and contacts Exeter Chiefs to share concerns about the branding from Indigenous communities our campaign to #ChangeTheChief and our petition at change.org/exeterchiefs quickly gains momentum with heightened awareness of the decades-long campaigns by Native Americans to end the use of Native mascots 

July 2020: Washington R*dskins drop their moniker and become temporarily known as the Washington Football Team until a new name is decided upon

July 2020: Edmonton Eskimos announce they will rebrand (new name of Edmonton Elks announced in June 2021)

July 2020: Exeter Rugby Club board of directors review branding after our petition attracted over three thousand signatures and extensive regional, national and international news coverage. Our campaign provided the club with extensive evidence of the offence and harm caused by this type of race-based branding. Though Exeter Chiefs agreed to retire the match-day mascot “Big Chief”, the board disappointingly decided to retain the rest of the brand; including the “tomahawk chop” chant, the fans’ misuse of the headdress, and the club “chief” logo, deemed by Exeter Chiefs’ board of directors to be in fact highly respectful

August 2020: BT Sport Chief Operations Officer Jamie Hindhaugh confirms to the Daily Mail that the channel will not use recorded sounds of the “Tomahawk chop” chant in their manufactured crowd noise for rugby matches being played without a crowd during the pandemic 

August 2020: Kansas City Chiefs announce they are banning fans from wearing Native-style headdresses and war paint at their stadium, after several years of “discouraging” the behaviour

October 2020: Exeter Chiefs win the Premiership and the European Rugby Champions Cup

November 2020: NCAI pass resolution “Support for the Elimination of Race-Based Native Logos, Mascots, Names, Behaviors and Practices” stating “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI reaffirms its position in support of the elimination of race-based mascots, logos, symbols, and stereotypes; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI does hereby reaffirm its call for national sports franchises to cease their use of such race-based Native logos, mascots, names, behaviors and practices.”

December 2020: Cleveland Indians announce they will rebrand (new name of Cleveland Guardians announced in July 2021)

January 2021: Channel 5 and production company Dazn remove scenes featuring a child actor wearing a headdress from the opening credits of their weekly Premiership Rugby Highlights show

February 2021: Protests against Kansas City Chiefs’ branding take place at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida

March 2021: A Briefing Report of the Nebraska Advisory Committee is submitted to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights titled “Civil Rights and the Impact of Native American Names, Symbols, and Imagery in School Mascots“. It recommended that “The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should issue the following recommendations to the United States Congress: a. Congress should advance a resolution in support of eliminating native-themed mascots in public schools at the national level”

March 2021: Cleveland Indians bans headdresses and face-paint for fans returning to the stadium 

April 2021: The State of Washington passes House Bill 1356, prohibiting public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names. Similar bills have been proposed in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Ohio. You can find out more here

June 2021: The state of Colorado introduce legislation “prohibiting the use of American Indian mascots (mascots) by public schools, including charter and institute charter schools, and public institutions of higher education (school) as of June 1, 2022. The bill imposes a fine of $25,000 per month for each month that a school continues to use a mascot after such date, payable to the state education fund”

July 2021: The Kansas Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice July 2021 Report Social Determinants of Health – First Report recommends schools in the state “review and eliminate” the use of Native mascots

July 2021: Kansas City Chiefs again retire their “Warpaint” mascot

August 2021: Washington Football Team bans headdresses and face-paint for fans returning to the stadium 

August 2021: Exeter Chiefs launch a new mascot rumoured to be called “Tom-a-hawk”

August 2021: Fans’ podcast The Wasps Report publishes an open letter to Wasps Rugby requesting their club ban the wearing of headdresses at their stadium

October 2021: Wasps Rugby Club issue a statement confirming they have raised the issue with the Premiership and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) (the two governing bodies for the league / sport in England) and discouraging Exeter fans from wearing headdresses to the Wasps vs Exeter game that weekend

October 2021: Fans’ blog Scottish Rugby Blog publishes an open letter to Glasgow Warriors requesting their club ban the wearing of headdresses at their stadium

October 2021: Exeter Chiefs chief executive and chairman Tony Rowe states that members will be able to vote on whether to change the branding or not at the club’s AGM on 24 November 2021 

October 2021: Protests against Atlanta Braves’ branding take place ahead of their game in the World Series

November 2021: The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) write to Exeter Chiefs rugby club to ask them to end their use of misappropriated Native-style imagery in their branding. Read the letter here

24th November 2021: The Exeter Chiefs AGM discusses their branding

25th  November 2021: Exeter Chiefs release statement after the AGM saying: “After consulting and listening in depth to the membership of Exeter Rugby Club at Wednesday’s Annual General Meeting, the Board of Directors will now go away and further consult with its stakeholders, partners and professional advisors to decide what the club will do next in terms of the club’s branding. The board will be meeting within the next few weeks to come to a decision. At this time, the club will be making no further comment.”

25th November 2021: Articles in the Guardian and the Daily Mail state that Exeter Chiefs will drop their Native American branding

26th November 2021: Bath Rugby email Exeter Chiefs fans due to attend the match between Bath and Exeter at Bath’s home ground not to wear headdresses

13th December 2021: Glasgow Warriors release a statement requesting Exeter Chiefs fans due to attend the Champions Cup fixture at Scotstoun on the 18th December not to wear headdresses or do the “tomahawk chop”

27th January 2022: Exeter Chiefs released a statement declaring they will stop using Native American branding and introducing their new logo

With thanks to these excellent resources who helped us to compile this timeline:

Change the Mascot: History of Progress

Jay Rosenstein Productions: In Whose Honour?

National Congress of American Indians: State Activity Tracker