Rugby-Wasps ask RFU to address issue of fans wearing Native American headdresses


FILE PHOTO-Rugby Union - Premiership - Wasps v Leicester Tigers - Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Britain - June 12, 2021 Fans outside the stadium before the match Action Images/Andrew Boyers

(Reuters) - Premiership side Wasps on Tuesday asked the country's rugby governing body (RFU) and the league to address the issue of fans wearing faux Native American headdresses ahead of the weekend's game against the Exeter Chiefs.

The Chiefs' logo features a Native American wearing a headdress and Wasps said fans who wore such faux headdresses were guilty of cultural appropriation.

"The wearing of faux Native American headdresses has the potential to cause offence and doesn't align with our values," Wasps said in a statement.

"However, having taken counsel on this issue, it is clear that to drive real change we need a sport wide position to be reached.

"We have, therefore, approached Premiership Rugby, the RFU and the RFU's newly formed Diversity and Inclusion working group to ask that this issue is formally addressed."

Wasps, however, stopped short of banning faux Native American attire ahead of Saturday's game, adding that acting in isolation would only lead to "further division and uncertainty".

"However, we do not support the wearing of such items, discourage supporters from wearing them and will be revisiting this decision in due course," Wasps added.

Exeter Chiefs for Change, a group campaigning to change the logo they say perpetuates "misleading and harmful stereotypes", welcomed Wasps' statement.

"Rugby is one of the last areas to respond to this issue, with several American football, baseball and ice hockey teams having banned them in recent years," the group said.

Exeter reviewed the club's branding in the wake of a petition calling for an end to their use of "harmful imagery" last year and though they said that the use of the logo was "highly respectful", they agreed to retire their mascot 'Big Chief'.

The petition against the Chiefs came in the wake of the NFL's Washington team retiring its 'Redskins' name and logo after 87 years, which had long been criticised as racist by Native American rights groups.

The team is now known as the Washington Football Team and they made a decision in August to ban fans from wearing Native American-inspired headdresses or face paint to games.

In April, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians -- which will be rebranded as the Cleveland Guardians after the 2021 season -- introduced a similar ban for its fans for the new season.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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