SFU Athletics retires the “Clan” name

Pressure from student-athletes resulted in the change

PHOTO: SFU Communications & Marketing / Flickr

Written by: Mahdi Dialden, News Writer

The Simon Fraser Clan name has officially been resigned. The decision came after pressure from students and alumni at SFU to change the name due its negative connotations, since “clan” was often associated with white-supermacy group, the Klu Klux Klan. Former SFU President Andrew Petter announced, “The single most important factor influencing my decision is the views of student-athletes on this matter.”

In explaining the initial name choice, Petter explained: “The Gaelic word for a family was chosen to honour friendship, loyalty and connection, commitments that remain deeply ingrained at SFU.” The petition against the name argued that “the worrisome part about this [name] is it puts SFU’s NCAA Athletes at risk when in the [United States] but it also undermines North American Black history regarding lynching, the KKK, segregation, and more.” The petition received over 13,000 signatures.

The process of investigating the name change began in January 2020, according to Petter. Student-athletes were the leaders of the discussion, as they voiced their concerns for the team name. A survey conducted in the Summer of 2019 by the students athletes’ advisory committee on the name showed that a majority of the students supported the change.

Former men’s basketball student-athlete Othniel Spence was one of the advocates for the name change. “Contrary to intent, this name was seen and experienced as triggering and traumatizing by those who played for the school; especially so for black athletes and athletes of colour,” he told The Peak in an email statement. “This population of athletes alongside allies saw this name for its negative connotation or experienced it first-hand when travelling to the states.”

According to the 2019 petition, many student-athletes vouched that this name had caused uncomfortable conversations with family down South, and had even further possibly dangerous implications. “This new name will also not require athletes to explain the intent behind it to fans, peers, and recruits like how the retired name previously did,” Spence says. He believes that this signals a more diverse athletic community and that he fully expects it to be reflected in the athletic teams’ demographics in the coming years.

Theresa Hanson, Senior Director for Athletics & Recreation, credits the name change to the approach taken by the student-athletes. “Their respectful approach to the nickname dialogue was both helpful and influential, and greatly contributed to the decision process” she explained in an email statement. Hanson added, “It takes a community to make positive change, and I am very grateful to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and athletic alumni who passionately advanced this issue.”

Spence said, “this will create a new avenue for Black recruits to feel welcomed by Simon Fraser University; thus, increasing the likelihood of signing more Black student-athletes in the upcoming years and creating a space for Black and POC Athletes.” 

“Key groups within the university community will be involved in the process, and our student-athletes, coaches and staff will help inform our new team name” Hanson concluded. The new name is aimed to be announced by the end of 2020.