Exeter Chiefs 'Tomahawk Chop' to be axed from BT Sport fake fan noise

Exeter Chiefs’ ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant set to be axed from BT Sport’s fake fan noise at Premiership games due to branding controversy

  • The Exeter Chiefs’ Native American branding has come under criticism
  • The ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant will be axed from BT Sport’s fake fan noise
  • The Premiership club retired their ‘Big Chief’ mascot after a review 

BT Sport will axe Exeter Chiefs’ ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant from their fake fan-noise at Premiership rugby matches amid controversy around the club’s branding.

The table-topping Chiefs have come under fire in recent weeks from pressure groups who have labelled their Native American branding ‘harmful’ as they view it as cultural appropriation.

Exeter decided to retire their ‘Big Chief’ mascot after a review last month, but retained their logo and name saying it was ‘highly respectful’. 

The ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant is set to be axed from BT Sport’s fake fan noise for matches

The ‘Big Chief’ mascot was retired last week after a review last month following controversy

However the league’s broadcaster is worried their ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant will offend viewers, so will not feed it into their manufactured crowd reactions.

‘It’s not something I want us to do,’ the chief operating officer of BT Sport Jamie Hindhaugh exclusively told Sportsmail.

‘We always work through with compliance and what we think is right both editorially and in conjunction with our Ofcom requirements.

‘I think in the current context of conversations that are happening across our industry and the world we need to be respectful. There’s no need for us to do anything controversial.

‘We’ll have other aspects of what that crowd sounds like when they’re at the game.

‘You go with what you can broadcast, and what is compliant with Ofcom. 

The Exeter Chiefs’ Native American branding has been branded  as cultural appropriation

‘If there’s any abusive language, rude chants or ones that aren’t correct in a live environment it’s a lot harder to control – but this is a post-produced environment and we’re making the sound for the game, so therefore we can sensibly do something that doesn’t offend people.

‘As a broadcaster we have a responsibility for what we broadcast. It’s an ongoing conversation and we’re protecting our own output which is the right thing to do.’

When rugby returns to TV screens next Friday BT Sport will employ a sound engineer to play in crowd noise based on audio clips of previous matches.

Chants, reactions to tries and even booing will be fed in – but for Sandy Park fixtures live on TV, starting with their opener at home to Leicester next Saturday, the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ will not be heard.

The chant – also used by the Kansas City Chiefs in American Football – has become a staple of a febrile atmosphere down in Devon.

The ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant is also used by Kansas City Chiefs fans in American Football

But after the Chiefs retired their mascot it remains to be seen how long the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ lasts when fans return.

Protestors launched a petition calling for Exeter to depart from its links to Native American imagery, which gained more than 3,500 signatures – however many fans said they did not find the club’s branding offensive and wanted it to stay.

Exeter have consistently said their century-old name is borne out of the fact the first team in Devon sides are called the ‘Chiefs’ and strongly refute that their image is in any way racist.

BT announced yesterday that every single behind-closed-doors Premiership fixture will be shown live on their channels.

The ones not ‘picked’ for broadcast will not have the fake fan noise and will be available via the red button service.

Season-ticket holders at Premiership clubs will also be able to watch games for free, even if they do not subscribe to BT. Clubs will choose who is eligible for that benefit. 

Saracens are set to loan out some of their star names in the southern hemisphere to help them prepare for the Lions tour. Director of rugby Mark McCall says he will give his Test players the option of a brief move abroad during the club’s year in England’s second division. 

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