Glasgow v Exeter: Al Kellock asks visiting fans to respect Warriors’ position on Native American imagery

Managing Director has informed Exeter Chiefs and European Professional Club Rugby of request

Al Kellock has asked Exeter Chiefs fans too respect his club's wishes on the use of Native American dress and chants. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Al Kellock has asked Exeter Chiefs fans too respect his club's wishes on the use of Native American dress and chants. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GLASGOW WARRIORS managing director Al Kellock has asked Exeter Chiefs supporters “not to attend the game on Saturday with faux Native American headdresses or chant the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ during the match”. 

“We are making this request out of respect for the Native American community around the world, whose views on the use of their imagery and cultural heritage we support, and the Glasgow Warriors supporters who have called for us to act on this matter,” he explained, in an open letter issued at lunchtime today [Monday].

“The club has informed Exeter Chiefs and European Professional Club Rugby of our request and has the full support of Scottish Rugby on taking this position.”


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Kellock explained that a working group was set up following this season’s Champions Cup draw, which pitted the two sides against each other in the pool stage for the fourth time in five years, to help the club “understand and educate ourselves on this sensitive issue and gather the views of our supporters, representatives from the Native American community, the competition organisers, and Exeter Chiefs themselves.”

“During this period, several supporters asked that we ban headdresses and the ‘Tomahawk Chop’, and in October the Scottish Rugby Blog wrote an open letter reiterating these calls,” he added.

Warriors are following the lead set by Wasps in October, who 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 their Premiership clash against the Devon side at the Coventry Building Society Arena. Bath made a similar request to the one Warriors have made ahead of their Premiership clash against Exeter at the end of November.

Exeter ditched its ‘Big Chief’ mascot last year, and the “overwhelming” view of the club’s membership at last month’s AGM was that the logo should be dropped, although there was no vote on the matter and a subsequent statement from the club revealed that “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 Chiefs name is apparently to be retained because it dates back to the 1900s and could be aligned with Iron Age chiefs, specifically the Dumnonii tribe who lived in Devon and Cornwall until the early Saxon period.

 

Exeter chief executive Tony Rowe has been reluctant to bow to mounting pressure on this issue, although he has also stated that he will listen to the membership. “There’s nothing racist about it,” he said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper after the Wasps request. “We’re not trying to belittle the image or ancestry of anyone. We want to be like those Indian chiefs. On that basis, if I go to church on Sunday and praise God am I doing something wrong?

“Are all those people really getting upset in North America? I don’t quite believe that. At the end of the day, what is the real harm?”

This interpretation does not align with the view taken by Dante Desiderio, chief executive of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) – the largest organisation serving the rights of tribal nations in the United States of America – who wrote to Rowe and the club’s members and trustees six weeks ago to explain that the branding “harms Native people through the offensive stereotypes it promotes, exemplified by Exeter Chiefs fans’ misappropriation of culturally sacred headdresses and face paint, and the degrading tomahawk chop chant”.

“The NCAI requests your support to retire all of the Native-themed imagery associated with the mascot branding of the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club,” wrote Desiderio. “The will of Indian Country is clear – Native-themed mascot imagery and the dehumanising stereotypes it perpetuates must go”.

Perhaps Rowe should heed the advice of Chris Bentley, who spent seven seasons as a player for the club followed by six years, from 2012 to 2018, working in its commercial department during a period of exponential growth on and off the pitch.

“I was a staunch advocate of the brand and one of the biggest proponents of getting people involved,” he told The Telegraph newspaper recently. “At games we would have 1,000 hospitality clients and I’d get them to stand up and do a tomahawk chop chant.

“[But] it’s not a hill worth dying on. After almost 25 years of that brand, we can say ‘right, now it’s time for a re-brand’ as opposed to seeing this as a really difficult thing.”

 

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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

74 Comments

  1. Not seeing any comments by you on those articles, Nigel. Its all very well lamenting the lack of comments on other articles when you’re not commenting on them either. And what views is it that the majority on here disagree with, and why not have a debate over those views?

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  2. I am reminded of the great Terry Wogan’s oft repeated saying that there is never a shortage of people willing to be offended on behalf of others.

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  3. Here in Aus, ‘Down Under’ my favourite rasberry chewy sweet – the ‘Redskin’ (which had similar connotations) – has been repackage as the ‘Red Ripper’ … which sort of reminds me of a serial killer …

  4. Not passing comment on any of the views expressed here, but how I’d love to see that passion be translated into actually supporting the Warriors this weekend!!!

    Exeter are dealing with it, let them get on with it, and get back to concentrating on our rugby. C’mon the Warriors!

  5. Never mind, the NFU have Ayrshire Bulls in their sights, while the RSPB are gunning for the Ospreys, etc, etc….

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    • And if the Klu Klux Klan ever discover what a diverse and welcoming bunch the Scottish Southern Knights are – there will be Hell to pay.

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  6. If you are going to appropriate a culture for branding reasons then surely its only polite to ask people from that culture if its OK to use their symbols/imagery.

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  7. Amazed/concerned/amused that this topic should generate more column inches than discussions on proposals for corporate restructuring at Murrayfield.
    Got it! Super6 is in winter hibernation!

    • I was thinking the same thing Bryce.

      Though I note many new contributors in a similar vein to the SA games which seemed to generate loads of new posters.

      And finding myself agreeing with Misterc and sceptic9 is a weird experience 😁

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    • Thinking the same,Bryce. 67 comments on inappropriate headwear at a rugby match, yet only 6 on Edinburgbs fantastic win away to Saracens.

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  8. Maybe after this game is out the way, Big Al and all the reported considerable resources used to form working parties etc, will get back to focussing on the team and results on the pitch?

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  9. Warning: Be advised the following comment is made by an individual who grew up at a time when attitudes were different and they may reflect a time gone by and may cause offence.
    Readers may also wish to consider reading to the end and that ticking the negative thumbs down may well be detrimental to the correspondents’ feelings.

    There is an expression the ‘Thin end of the Wedge’ and never has there been a clearer indication of this than when a group of aggrieved individuals decide for the entire World a view of it that conforms to their understanding of it without the ability to stop for a moment and consider is this a misappropriation of a culture, or a compliment?
    Probably about 20 odd years ago someone was getting their kecks in a twist about something that up till that time hadn’t upset anyone but they managed to convince a few others to join in the approbation of what they considered to be a heinous crime, consequently the thin end of the wedge of personal expression has became a no go politically correct area.
    Is attaching, in this case a Native North American War Bonnet taken as an insult supposedly to the entire Sioux Nation? Do we read on the overseas section of the Washington Post that the Cheyenne, Pawnee or Lakota all demand a War Council Pow Wow, [where is Cochise when you need him?] because an English Rugby Club identify the Head-dress in a positive way? Think about it, Exeter are not going out with ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ T shirts, it’s Exeter’s or rather their Marketing Suits that have identified the Head-dress as a positive and frankly it is as sure as Eggs is Eggs it is a small vociferous minority of the equivalent Socks and Sandals Brigade that have started this fuss in the first instance.

    OK: now having said that as far as I am concerned, and the following is my personal opinion and absolve David Barnes of any responsibility for distress to the readership of the Offsideline. Turning up to a Rugby match with a Lakota Sioux Head-dress is just as puerile and vacuous as the marketing people at the SRU inflicting Mel Gibson lookalikes prior to an International with the Fireworks and 500 bloody miles blaring out.
    How I long for the days when you went to watch the game having played in the morning and trundled off via a few pubs with you pals and all too often some of the opposition enter the ground and win or lose retrace your steps back via those Pubs to the Clubhouse.

    Note: Other opinions are available.

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    • It’s up to Native Americans whether they take the branding as a compliment or not, and the NCAI statement shows that their main representative body does not. As a member of the ‘woke’ brigade myself, if Native American people were fine with all this then the rest of us honestly couldn’t give a **** – (unless of course we happen to be sat trying to watch a game of rugby behind some eejit in full feather headdress.)

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      • I understand your point and if the view of all the Native Americans is that this is a heinous crime against their ethnicity and rights, fair enough, I just am unsure that the NCAI speaks for all North American Indian descendants or whether it is a pressure group for the sake of it, if you follow my thoughts. Offering up Devils Advocacy will there be an argument soon about whether ‘Indian’ can only be contributed to those of Asian descent or North American, well you see what I mean. By all means NCAI ensure that the indigenous population of North America are treated equally with the immigrants that took their country over: heavens lets just leave this Can of Worms and look forward to the Six Nations.

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    • “..if the view of all the Native Americans is that this is a heinous crime against their ethnicity and rights, fair enough, I just am unsure that the NCAI speaks for all North American Indian descendants or whether it is a pressure group for the sake of it.”

      I doubt that there is a single view of all Native Americans any more than there is a single view of all Scottish people on any given topic. There is always the risk when a group is represented as speaking for the whole but I don’t think we can take the position that unless everyone agrees/feels the same way then no action should be taken as nothing will ever happen – not just in this situation but in any situation. Given that what is purported to be the main representative body has asked for it to stop it is hard to find a counter-argument beyond “p*ss off – we like dressing up like this”.

  10. I think it all needs to be taken in context. I am just one voice but I happen to be from the Highlands and am not offended in the slightest by the Otago Highlanders’ badge featuring a shirtless gudgie wae a Braveheart style mullet waving a sword – on the contrary, I regard it a compliment. Rugby teams self-identify with the brave, the big, the mighty – however you want to put it – and Exeter evidently find Native American chiefs to fall into this categorisation. They did not set themselves so as an exercise in mockery, be that self or from external observation. Where would any merit lie in taking the proverbial out of you and yours? The Otago badge and Exeter Chiefs motif are caricatures, symbols, however they might be ascribed, not commentary or contemplation on history or culture. I.e. fun. How people interpret it is down to disposition. Are we to launch a consultation with Man City fans re Santa’s colours next – where does it all stop?

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    • Good question and worth putting forward, as I suggest all this is the thin end of the wedge and being myopic to it isn’t the answer.

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    • An area with Scottish roots and history using Scottish imagery is somewhat different from a club with no links to Native Americans using that imagery.

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    • I am happy to accept Exeter’s original intention was not to offend but identify with great warriors. But those “warriors” via their representatives are very clear how they see this – actually without criticising Exeter’s original intention. The world moves on, fortunately. Exeter’s owner knows full well he is out on a limb among the rest of rugby, There is no shame in saying they have taken this on board and will change the branding, drop the feathers and chant, but retain the name which is generic the world over.
      But of you are dealing with someone who blocked entry to fans at the gate who had tickets from their employer – the major Exeter sponsor – days after their employer went bankrupt and their jobs were lost – well you know what sort of person you are dealing with

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    • No. But if NZ Maoris were campaigning for NZ to stop performing the Haka as they found it offensive, then you might have a case. AFAIK the vast majority of Maori opinion is proud of their association with rugby in NZ.

    • I think that is a fair question. I’m fine with NZ trying to protect Maori cultural heritage. If that is all it is and its what Maori communities want. But it clearly isn’t. Its a huge commercial exercise mainly for NZRFU. Copyrighted or something recently by the NZ Govt. And performed by many with no Maori ancestry, in All Blacks jerseys.

      But if the Maori leadership have no issue, neither do I. If they have an issue, I’d support them. Its not for me to dictate to them how when or why to protect their culture. I’ll be guided by those whose culture it is, and respect their decisions

      • What a load of bollocks. I am old enough to remember when the haka was just a silly dance. Get over yourself

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    • It’s cultural appropriation which is being discussed, rather than racism Mr Sutherland. And it could be appropriation, should the largest and most representative group of Māori people ask the NZRU to cease and desist.

      But as far as I am aware they haven’t. Your comment, however, is a textbook example of “whataboutery”.

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    • Ka Mate (the traditional haka) was gifted to the All Blacks as a taonga (cultural treasure) by the iwi (tribe) who own it. Therefore no, it’s neither racist nor cultural appropriation.

      The situation is very different with Exeter Chiefs’ branding.

  11. All very pointless bearing in Exeter supporters have not been wearing headdresses to away games in the English Premiership all season.

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  12. The difference of the table number being 6 or 9 is down to point of view and prospective, why don’t we try this as a head line,

    OUTRAGE AS GLASGOW WARRIORS BAN ALL NATIVE AMERICAN FANS FROM WEARING CULTURAL HEAD WEAR AT EUROPEAN FIXTURE

    Warriors did say all exeter fans attending the game… can of worms

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    • Glasgow Warriors didn’t ban any fans from wearing the head-dress. They have asked them not to.

      Facts are important.

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      • understand this David, but for me the difference between ask not to and ban these days isn’t a big one, as futile as it all sounds i think this is a slippery slope to rugby becoming impossibly PC that there are no grounds for the traditional charm like of which we all love and are proud of.

        weve seen players interviewed after games not as people, but as products of huge sponsorship deals, non personalities to quoting pre written answers to media questions – all stemmed from being a pawn in the corporate machine that seems to be rugby

        when i played in NZ after the game, i sat with many different cultures, all of which celebrated for what they are none of which any discrimination took place – just rugby values and most importantly personality no matter how diverse

        rugby is a game for everyone except those who disagree with what sells – impartiality and following the crowd

        do i think less of glasgow warriors or those who support this? of course not. Rugbys for all, all has to be all, all cant be the ones who are right and the rest

        ps, my maori mother loves seeing everyone involved in maori culture – no reason not to when ones culture is being recognised.

        always enjoy your comments David and these are no different good healthy debate – enjoy the game

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        • Thanks Teej, and my comment certainly wasn’t meant to be a personal dig. I certainly agree with you re the commercialisation of personalities in modern pro rugby.

  13. Jeezo the old bufty gammons out on force as always. Scottsh grass roots Rugby in the hands of some really sad old men. Can’t get rid of em soon enough.

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    • What a weird comment from somebody who isn’t prepared to put their name next to their sweeping opinion.

      Not sure what the people who run grassroots rugby have done to upset this person, but we’ll leave this post here because it is too childish to really hurt anyone’s feelings, and it is a good example of how not to conduct an online discussion.

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      • Using your actual name on the internet doesn’t make you any more of a big man than anybody who doesn’t.

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        • Who said anything about being ‘a big man’?

          Although, I’d happily say that my opinion is that if someone doesn’t have the courage of their convictions – doesn’t put their name to their aggressive comments – then they are not going to be taken as seriously as those people who are prepared to stand behind what they’ve got to say.

          I’m sorry if you don’t like my opinion ‘John Martin’.

          From David Barnes [real name]

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      • Without wishing to appear to be the Class creep, I think the point David Barnes made is a valid one as it is a way of giving a comment, especially a spiteful or vacuous one that can’t be attributed to the person making the comment, ‘for obvious reasons’, as Rick of the YoungOnes would say.
        Reading the comment it has all the hallmarks of a loner sitting in his bedroom desperate for attention trolling through the Internet trying to be the ‘Big Man’ the very persona you mention.
        The use of a pseudonym undoubtedly gives the impression that the individual wants to keep his/her identity anonymous, and my personal opinion of that is keep your thoughts to yourself if you don’t the conviction to put your name to them.
        I will admit however you could make up a name, George Haley for instance or even John Martin however that isn’t likely, and there are contributors to this forum that do use a pseudonym or nickname and offer up constructive comment unlike the one that is being criticised.
        However each to their own opinion you have yours and I have mine for what it is worth.

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  14. Fair enough to respect the rights of rugby’s injuns here in Scotland – but when are people going to do something about those plundering cowboys….?

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    • Is this underperforming members of the building trade you are referring to or some of our players who are underperforming!!

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  15. Always saw it as a compliment, ie could have been Exeter Cowboys. Not sure about a name glorifying war however….

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  16. Bloody hell reallywho gives a toss about trivia like this .
    The worlds gone woke crazy.
    There’s more important things in life to worry about than this

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    • The Native Americans whose culture is being plundered give a toss, the biggest recognised group in America specifically called out the Exeter Chiefs for it, after a 50 year campaign to get US teams to quit it.

      Their opinions on their culture being nicked as a marketing tool are more important than yours in this instance.

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  17. A big difference between the Highlanders and Exeter Chiefs is that Otago & Southland actually have cultural links to Scotland – the family histories, place names, even the residual rolled ‘r’ in the Southland accent. There’s a sign in Roxburgh saying ‘we support 3 teams – Otago, the All Blacks and Scotland’.

    What have a bunch of English boys got to do with Native American culture? It’s a total embarrassment.

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  18. Why is making music (our chant) causing offence? Non verbal chants were used by native tribes,in what is now Devon, well before anyone knew of N American tribes.

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    • But it’s not referencing those native Devonian tribes is it? One Chiefs fan even mocked up some new branding that did reference local ancient tribes and offered it to the club – they’ve so far declined.

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  19. No it isn’t. The fuss was kicked up well before (years) the NCAI had any awareness of this topic by a number of self-righteous people with – seemingly – very little else to do. At least one of who wrote a marvellous article ‘“Playing Indian”: Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age’, which really gets to the heart of how pointless this protest is.

    And people wonder why so much of the Western world is turning, depressingly, toward the Right.

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  20. What is all the fuss about. Next thing they will be stopping kids from playing cowboys and indians! More woke shite being put upon us like the nonsense about taking the knee. As that great cultural philosopher Rab C Nesbitt used to say “Don’t bend the knee boy, don’t bend the knee” . I am off to get a Red Indian Headdress and learn the words to the CHOP https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L640OBY/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&aaxitk=f9e8b8af83a1a82b87305891215d0b3a&hsa_cr_id=1716314681&pd_rd_plhdr=t&pd_rd_r=bb5088c6-7f23-4621-860e-5353afbc1d17&pd_rd_w=KkALS&pd_rd_wg=7O5eM&ref_=sbx_be_s_sparkle_tsld_asin_1_img .

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    • and you know this store is run by Native Americans? And that it sells goods made by them? No you don’t.

      “Our war bonnet style headdresses channel the spirit of the American West, and take inspiration from Native American cultures. Our products are not made by Natives, and are not meant to be interpreted as authentic Native American crafts. We have no affiliation with a North American Indian tribe.”

      Deliberately going out to offend as well.

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  21. this has been an issue bubbling for years. Exeter have been approached by native americans resident locally, and by many of their own fans. Warriors statement is almost identical to ones issued by a few English Premiership teams this season, starting with Wasps. There will be more. And a major NFL team has changed its name – a far bigger brand than Exeter could ever hope to be.
    There are 2 basic points here. Tis isn’t about taking offence, it is about respecting other cultures and their heritage. Especially when their representatives make clear how grossly offensive this stuff is to their culture
    And second, it isn’t about the name Chiefs. There are chiefs in almost every culture. It isnlt a problem

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    • What nonsense there are no Native American Residents locally that is a contradiction in terms you can only be a native resident in your own country!

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  22. Well yes, there are a lot of sensitive people in Glasgow. I mean, it’s apparently ok for the local football fans to continually re-fight 17th century Irish battles, but, it’s not ok for visitors to come dressed as native Americans.

    Seems fair enough. So long as they don’t ban |C|U Jimmy hats and wigs.

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    • ah the old two wrongs make it right argument. Anyway as far as I know, neither Glasgow Warriors nor the SRU run Scottish football, perhaps they might clear up their own mess. Perhaps if Scottish Football authorities were half as interested they could have cleared it up

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      • Hoist by your own petard dear boy/ If Scottish football is to clean up its own mess – then maybe Exeter should be left to clear-up theirs, without prompting from Warriors.

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      • no, Mr Vallance. The Exeter would not even have considered cleaning up until Wasps and Bath issues statements very similar to the one Glasgow have issued. That pressure is what will bring change

        You can argue that rugby authorities, especially in England could do far more and I’d agree. Then I’d also say that football authorities in Scotland could do a damned sight more to root out bigotry. Only someone happy to see it continue would think otherwise. Just like only someone who thinks false equivalence and whataboutery or 2 wrongs make a right would

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  23. I might be in the minority here but I can’t see what the fuss is about. I haven’t read or seen any protests by native Americans and the Chiefs have a history going back 150 years without complaint. If someone is complaining about misappropriation or about cheapening the Native American culture you only have to go to visit the tacky casinos selling tat souvenirs in the USA.

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    • The fuss is precisely because the National Congress of American Indians have repeatedly asked Exeter to stop it.

      Also Exeter only started using the Native American imagery 20 years ago for branding and marketing purposes, it have eff all to do with their history or tradition.

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      • No it isn’t. The fuss was kicked up well before (years) the NCAI had any awareness of this topic by a number of self-righteous people with – seemingly – very little else to do. At least one of who wrote a marvellous article ‘“Playing Indian”: Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age’, which really gets to the heart of how pointless this protest is.

        And people wonder why so much of the Western world is turning, depressingly, toward the Right.

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  24. why wasn’t this an issue in 2019? 2018 no problem either, the years before it not one person had a problem yet all of a sudden now its a huge issue.

    fad wouldn’t be the right word, covering your own back side not far off – I’m going to stick this one in the same category as MOTM going to player or star.

    im sorry, i know people will disagree with me and that is absolutely fine, but for me this is being taken way out of control.

    dreading Glasgow Warriors becoming Glasgow Rugby in the future watch this space

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    • Puts me in mind of that Sean Connery quote from his autobiography: ‘We were as poor as church mice, but happy as pigs in s*** playing out in the street until a social worker came along and told us we were deprived.’ The Warriors logo is taken by some to be a Viking, one of many who notoriously pillaged Scotland’s islands and coastlines. As my mother’s side of the family is from Orkney, I daresay I contain traces of their genetic material. Similarly the Otago Highlanders logo is a warrior in tartan with sword and targe raised to the skies – much as my indigenous clan ancestors might have done in days of old. Call me perverse, but I have no issues with being the victim of cultural appropriation in either case. Going back to the rugby, here’s hoping Glasgow take a memorable scalp.

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