An American Indian rights organisation has called on Premiership Rugby club Exeter Chiefs to change their ‘racist’ name and stop fans wearing traditional headdresses.

Although the Exeter Chiefs adopted this name in 1999, they have been known by the Chiefs since 1930s. They have, however, resisted any pressure to change their name.

But the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) chief executive Dante Desiderio has backed the call for change and has asked the rugby club to drop their logo.

It comes after the club’s mascot Big Chief was retired last year following accusations that the branding is racist towards Native Americans.

In a letter to the Exeter Chiefs, Mr Desiderio called on the club to stop fans from wearing headdresses and drop the use of names for various venues such as the ‘Wigwam Bar’.

The National Congress of American Indians' has called for the Exeter Chiefs rugby club to change their 'racist' name and stop fans wearing headdresses (pictured in December 2020)

The National Congress of American Indians’ has called for the Exeter Chiefs rugby club to change their ‘racist’ name and stop fans wearing headdresses (pictured in December 2020)

He said in a statement that: The will of Indian Country is evident – Native “themed” mascot imagery, and the dehumanizing stereotypes that it perpetuates must end.

Exeter’s fans have worn headdresses ever since 1999 when they were rebranded.

Desiderio also requested that Mr. Desiderio stop ‘uses Native-themed collateral’ Fans called it a ‘tomahawk cut’, and he said that it was ‘degrading’. 

He added: “To respect tribal sovereignty, it is important that you listen to the voices representing hundreds of Tribal Nations as well as the organizations that serve them when trying understand the position of Indian Country on the issue.

Mr Desiderio said the NCAI is committed to working with the rugby club to ‘aid in its mascot branding transition’, including offering a trial leader to share their perspective with the club and the community on the issue.

The Club will undergo a complete review of its branding during the AGM on November 24, it is believed. 

The Wasps had asked Premiership Rugby and Rugby Football Union (RFU), to examine the Exeter Chief fan’s wearing of Native American headdresses. They called it ‘cultural appropriation.

This Coventry club had to respond to an open mail from its own fan group when it brought up the topic on its website. 

The Exeter Chiefs, who adopted the name in 1999, have so far resisted pressure to change its name. Pictured: Fan wearing a headdress in February 2019

Since 1999, the Exeter Chiefs adopted this name. They have managed to resist any attempts at changing it. Pictured in February 2019, Fan sporting a headdress

Fans will not be forbidden from wearing them, however they will be dissuaded from doing so because of the potential for offence. 

According to the club, it would encourage the whole rugby community to fight inequality and discrimination and asked the sport’s governing body for a ruling.

This report highlighted continued racism against high-profile athletes, Black Lives Matter and rising intolerance towards LGBTQI+ individuals as events that brought diversity and inclusion front and center.

The club stated that many topics and behaviors once acceptable (e.g cultural appropriation) are now unacceptable.

“Even though it is not our intention to make society professionally offensive, we must recognize that opinions and times change.

They acknowledged that it was difficult for them to figure out how to best deal with the problem and they had spoken with people from other communities, such as members of Native American tribes.

It engaged in dialogue with supporters, Native American communities and fans.

The Chiefs announced in July that their Big Chief mascot would soon be retiring, but they will keep their logo and name following allegations of racism towards Native Americans.

The NCAI's chief executive Dante Desiderio has asked the rugby club to drop their logo (pictured), after the club has been accused of 'cultural appropriation'

After being accused of cultural appropriation, Dante Desiderio, chief executive at the NCAI has requested that the Rugby Club drop its logo (pictured).

Following more than 3,700 signatures of a petition calling for the club’s branding and “harmful imagery” to be changed, a review board was established. As a mark of respect, the mascot was removed. 

The team has also been previously criticised by “Exeter Chiefs for Change”, who are aiming to amend their name. This group called the decision to retain the name “tone-deaf”

Exeter Chiefs spokesperson said that it had conducted a “detailed analysis” of branding.

“Content submitted to the board indicated, that Chiefs was dated back in the early 1900s. It also mentioned that Chiefs had a long history of dealing with Devonians.

“The Chiefs logo’s use was deemed highly respectful by the Board. We have seen players and coaches come from many countries and different cultures over the years. 

“None of the players, coaches, nor their families have ever made any negative remarks about the brand or culture in place at the club.

The board considered that the club’s mascot, Big Chief, could be considered disrespectful and decided to remove him from the team as a sign of respect.

“The club will make no comment further on the matter.”

MailOnline reached out to Exeter Chiefs in order for them to comment.