NCAA: The Growing Push to Change SFU’s “Clan” Name

Burnaby, BC- People have been pushing for years, and finally, it’s looking like Simon Fraser University will drop the name “Clan” from their athletics programs. 

SFU has gone by the Clan nickname since 1965, but the name does not send the message of family and unity as it intends. Rather, it brings to mind the Klu Klux Klan, the violent white supremacist group in the USA. “Clan,” with a “C” as it is spelled for the school’s teams is meant to pay homage to the school’s Scottish heritage, but in practice, it only leads to lengthy explanations from everyone involved. That’s why nearly everyone agrees that it is time for a change. 

The school is the only Canadian program that competes in the USA’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), elevating the name’s racist interpretations.

(SFU Athletics)

In a virtual meeting on July 2, SFU’s sports administration committed to getting rid of “The Clan.” This comes after a petition was signed by 8000+ and many student-athletes spoke out against the name, with over 97% agreeing they would like it to be changed. 

“The university is deeply troubled by and attentive to the emotions and concerns to which these associations have given rise, and the impact they have on our athletes, particularly in light of our revulsion to and condemnation of anti-Black racism,” SFU Athletics stated.

While there has long been displeasure with the name, there has never been an uprising like the one in recent weeks. The spark to this campaign was lit by former men’s basketball player Othniel Spence, who published a piece on June 29 titled “I am Not Your Clansman.”

READ: I Am Not Your Clansman

In the piece, Spence describes his feelings regarding the name and his experiences representing the school. He speaks of an exchange he had with a fan when playing in his first NCAA games at a Seattle invitational tournament.

“That’s when a guy came up to me and asked, “What team you play for?”

I replied, “SFU…”

“What’s your team name?” 

“The Clan.”

“Oh… we don’t do that here,” he replied.”

– Othniel Spence, I Am Not Your Clansman

That dialogue is a constant one for those involved with SFU’s athletics programs, and a name change would solve that.

Over the next few months, important decisions are going to have to be made regarding the school’s sports teams, but it’s something that SFU Athletic Director Theresa Hanson is dedicated to. “We have seven-to-10 groups of stakeholders we are having dialogue with,” said Hanson, to Varsity Letters, referring to the likes of SFU’s student-athletes, coaching staffs, athletic and recreation staff, athletic alumni, university faculty and staff, advancement and alumni relations, as well as various student societies and other groups.

With all of the recent progressions, a committee has been formed to create a new name and rebrand to present to the university’s president in the near future. 

The campaign to change the nickname of Canada’s only NCAA team has picked up significant speed in recent weeks, but the change has been percolating for years.

The name is not shown on campus or uniforms

If you’re to go walking around SFU’s Burnaby campus, you’re going be hard-pressed to find the “Clan” name on any signage or T-shirts. Maybe you’ll check the front of Varsity teams jerseys- only to find they say “SFU” or “Simon Fraser.” The name is simply hidden, and if the school and its athletes aren’t going to be proud of the name, it’s time for a change. 

(Paul Yates/ SFU Athletics)

There are previous examples in Canada and the NCAA of taking away controversial team names. In U SPORTS, McGill removed their “Redmen” nickname, and now go by just “McGill,” but are planning on a new name. In the NCAA, Arkansas State went from “Indians” to “Red Wolves,” and Syracuse University dropped “Orangemen” in favour of “Orange.” Name changes have been done, and the recent uprising for social justice should force a new name from SFU. 

(Keveren Guillou)

But what could that name be?

The school is seemingly set on paying heritage to their Scottish roots, so the first name that comes to mind is the “Highlanders.” There is a semi-pro soccer team on Vancouver Island that goes by that name, but that is unlikely a barrier for the school. The potential name has been thrown around for years, but many others will surely be discussed. 

Last Kick: While a new name is needed, a new mascot is not. Simon Fraser has one of the best mascots in all of sports with McFogg the Dog, a loveable Scottish canine. Keep the dog, but drop the name.

Woohoo, Boohoo | The Peak
McFogg the Dog (The Peak- SFU’s Student Newspaper)

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