Two years after dumping their controversial Clan nickname, Simon Fraser University’s sports teams will be called the Red Leafs.
SFU announced the news on Tuesday after what the Burnaby, B.C. school called an extensive consultation process that began in 2020.
“I’m proud that the university is moving forward under the Red Leafs name,” SFU president Joy Johnson said in a statement. “We feel it captures the heritage and spirit of SFU, and its unique role in collegiate sports.”
SFU’s sports logo has included a maple leaf for decades, and it is “recognized as a symbol of unity across its campuses,” the university said in a statement.
The Red Leafs will debut their new look with a launch party on Thursday. The women’s volleyball team, which plays on Thursday night, will be the first to wear the new name.
The push to dump the 55-year-old nickname, which had been shortened from the original Clansmen, came after more than 13,000 people signed a petition in June of 2020. In a virtual town-hall meeting in July, 97 per cent of attendees voted to change the name. The Clan was a nod to heritage of Scottish explorer and fur trader Simon Fraser, but there was significant concern about the name mistakenly being tied to the Ku Klux Klan.
A Nov. 10, 2020 statement from SFU’s presidents office said: “I want to pause and reflect – and ask our community to take a moment to reflect – on the work of Black student-athletes, students, faculty and staff in advancing this conversation to its rightful conclusion I understand that raising concerns and sharing personal experiences of racism are painful for Black students, faculty and staff and this is not a burden they should bear. I also want to acknowledge the activism of Black students, faculty and staff that took place over the years leading up to this decision.”
The name was chosen after consultations with numerous student groups, including the Simon Fraser Students Society, Indigenous Students Centre, and representatives from the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) and SFU First Nations, Metis and Inuit Student Association (FNMISA).
SFU also sought feedback on the name from nine Indigenous Host Nations.
“Being a part of this process is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” says Ryan Stolys, co-chair of the varsity name working group, and current golf student-athlete. “The [new name] connects with our existing unique leaf that so many athletes before us have competed under and builds in our representation of Canada when competing in the United States as Canada’s only NCAA team.”
SFU’s name change comes amid a growing outcry over the past few years around the nicknames of numerous professional sports teams and post-secondary schools.
Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson University, dumped both its school name and nickname, since Egerton Ryerson was an architect of Canada’s residential school system. The school recently announced the new name TMU Bold. Their mascot is a falcon.
McGill University dropped Redmen for its men’s teams in 2019. They’re now called the Redbirds. The women remain the Marlets.
The CFL’s Edmonton franchise cut ties with the Eskimos nickname in 2020, in favour of the Elks.