EXETER CHIEFS have been blasted for ‘trolling Native Americans’ with their new mascot – just a year after axing their culturally offensive ‘Big Chief’.
Campaigners are calling for the European and English champions to end the use of “harmful” indigenous branding on their kit and have more than 6,000 backers signed up to their cause via an online petition.
Just last week Exeter unveiled a new mascot in a now-deleted Twitter post – with fans claiming they have called the bird, which looks like a hawk, Tom.
The Exeter Chiefs for Change group want the club to ditch traditional Native American headdresses on the badge and stop playing the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant around Sandy Park.
They also believe that what they call the use of a “racial caricature logo” is the reason why the club are the only one out of 13 Premiership sides without a main front-of-shirt shirt sponsor this year.
Hitting out, Exeter Chiefs for Change told SunSport: “Chiefs’ commercially chaotic pre-season is now bordering on farcical following the mascot unveiling debacle.
“At best, if it is just a random bird, the club is missing the branding 101 opportunity to launch the mascot with a name and character to engage families and sell related merchandise.
“At worst, if it is based on the “Tom-a-hawk” pun as most suspect, it is doubling-down on the misappropriated branding and blatantly trolling the Native Americans it claims to respect and honour.
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“In the 150th year of the club and at a point where it has achieved so much, it would seem the perfect time to accept the changing landscape and announce a future move away from the outdated and inappropriate Native American branding adopted in 1999 and on to a new more positive future.”
And speaking of what appears to be a lack of main shirt sponsor, Chiefs for Change said: “It appears that the decision to stubbornly plough on with the branding is not without consequences, as the shirts are without a main sponsor.
“If the club was concerned about the cost of rebranding before, it surely must now be realising the cost of not rebranding.
“Given the phenomenal success as Premiership and European Championship winners just a year ago, many would assume that securing a lucrative sponsorship deal would be a cinch.
“However, as more and more organisations commit to diversity, equity and inclusion policies, the type of higher-profile sponsors that the club’s success should deserve seem less likely to want to align their brand with one tainted in this way.
“The issue is a rapidly snowballing PR crisis that the club is stuck in until it takes action.
“The sooner they do that the sooner we can all move on and get back to enjoying the rugby and being proud of the club on and off the pitch, without this distraction and harm.”
While sports teams in the USA like the Washington Football Team ditched their Native American imagery after requests from indigenous people, Exeter have shown no signs of ending their random association.
They previously insisted their use of the Native American headdress was “a sign of respect”.
But Wasps have now become the first club to discuss the potential of banning fans from wearing them in Coventry this season.
Exeter Chiefs for change added: “We are listening to a wider range of voices and hearing from many Native American and Indigenous peoples that imagery like this that stereotypes their diverse and varied culture isn’t an honour or respect but in fact dehumanises them, undermines their attempts to own their own history and image, and contributes to damage to well-being and mental health, particularly amongst their youth.
“Exeter Chiefs and its fans might not have had the intention of doing harm, but it is unfortunately the impact, so the only decent and respectful thing to do is to listen and stop.”
Exeter Chiefs refused to comment.