Student organizers lead demand for changing SFU’s sports team name

SFU Athletics supports dropping the name ‘The Clan’ due to the racist connotations associated with it

Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

SFU Athletics expressed their support for a name change of the athletics team name, the Simon Fraser Clan, last Thursday, July 2.

The SFU Athletics website says that, “In response to student athletes’ concerns about the nickname, SFU initiated a review process that has been ongoing since the beginning of 2020.  SFU Athletics will provide a report to the president in August and a decision will be shared before the fall term begins.”

The demand for change began back in 2017 through the efforts of various activists, including SFU philosophy professor Holly Andersen and former SFU Men’s Basketball team captain Othniel Spence

Spence and SFU student Marie Haddad created a petition titled “‘The Clan’ Simon Fraser University Needs a New Name.” The petition has over 8,000 signatures at the time of writing. 

The Peak spoke with Haddad over email about the name’s affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. 

Haddad noted that “the implications of the political and social realm behind this history and era have directly affected Black communities until this day on several levels and it is a history we need to be aware of.”

“I recognize that [The Clan] was initially inspired by Scottish heritage but unfortunately it still portrays affiliation with the original name and carries the negative connotation [ . . . ] There is also an unfortunate and prominent North American History regarding the name which is deeply enrooted in the racist segregated threat to Black people and communities.”

The Peak also reached out to Mason Glover, an SFU Football player. He explained over email how the team name has affected him as a Black student athlete traveling frequently to the US.

“The name has greatly affected me,” he began, “it has affected family relationships and conversations, how I communicate with people when talking about my school, but most of all how I represent myself. 

“We get mostly dirty or inappropriate responses when people find out that our name is “Clan” especially playing in the United States. It’s not fair for students, especially students of colour to have to feel ashamed of representing themselves in an environment that they should feel most confident in,” he continued.

The #IAmNotYourClansman hashtag had been used by SFU student athletes on social media to demand the name change. Glover explained that student athletes are posing with athletic gear and using this hashtag to demand change from the university.

Glover noted that SFU “claimed to promote an engaged and diverse learning and social environment but put issues such as this on the back burner consistently. 

On SFU’s failure to acknowledge this issue previously, Glover stated: “And I also question what made them think differently all of the sudden? Why did it take an entire BLM movement, athletes such as Othniel Spence to make himself VERY vulnerable and bring up issues that are traumatizing to him and on top of that THOUSANDS of signatures when the majority of us have clearly wanted this for years.”

“It’s sickening that it has taken this long and this much push for them to finally understand the seriousness of this.”

Haddad and Spence have also called for support from various SFU organizations, including the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). 

On June 24, the SFSS Council voted in favour of supporting the name change. The passed motion mandated the Council Chair to write a letter directed to Andrew Petter, Joy Johnson, and Rummana Khan Hemani in alignment with the email template found on the petition’s page itself. Council also called on the SFSS Board of Directors to follow suit. The Board passed the motion to write a letter and endorse the efforts in their June 26 meeting.

Haddad echoed this concern around the importance of having student voices heard while maintaining SFU’s Scottish heritage.

“The point is to acknowledge Scottish heritage in a way that does not undermine North American POC/Black History associated to the name,” Haddad wrote.

“That being said, connotation has great meaning to words aside from just a word’s definition, and it’s sad to say that the North American connotation [ . . . ] can be affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.”

When asked for a comment on the newest announcement from SFU sports administration, Haddad said, “I’m glad to hear that SFU is standing in solidarity with their Athletes and taking this movement seriously. Seeing a commitment to changing the name from the university is definitely a sign of hope. That being said, there is still a big decision to be made by Andrew Petter, and we will keep amplifying Black and POC voices while applying pressure until the change is confirmed and made.”