Simon Fraser University has announced a new name for its collegiate track and field teams, two years after agreeing to drop the previous “Clan” moniker amid widespread student outcry.
Beginning this week, SFU athletes will play under the Red Leafs banner, a name befitting the maple leaf design worn by the university’s teams for generations.
It was decided after an extensive consultation process that focused on finding a name that “doesn’t cause harm,” said Theresa Hanson, SFU’s senior director of athletics and recreation.
“As a university, our first duty is to create a supportive environment,” said Hanson. “So it was time to change the name.”
While the clan name was intended as a nod to the Scottish heritage of the university’s namesake, Simon Fraser, officials previously acknowledged the discomfort and embarrassment it had caused students, particularly black athletes, who attended the university at games across the United States represented
Former SFU basketball player Othniel Spence started a petition to drop the former team name and shared the shock he felt as a black student when he first heard the crowd chant “Go Clan”. The petition was signed by nearly 14,000 people.
Hanson noted that a number of student-athletes had previously raised concerns, prompting the university to hire an independent consulting agency to review use of the clan name in January 2020.
The agency’s report found that concerns about the name and perceived “association with the racism of the Klu Klux Klan” were consistent and widespread, indicating growing support for a change through a variety of polls, polls and petitions from the past years.
“I am proud that the university is moving forward under the Red Leafs name,” SFU President Joy Johnson said in a statement.
“After much deliberation, we’ve heard it’s a name everyone in our community can be proud of and I can’t wait to cheer on our teams together.”
The Red Leafs will debut their new look at a launch party at SFU’s Convocation Mall on Thursday.
With files from Spencer Harwood of CTV News Vancouver