'We demand change': SFU expected to make decision on 'Clan' team name by fall as opposition grows
VANCOUVER -- Simon Fraser University says it expects a decision to be made by this fall on whether the school will keep the “SFU Clan” moniker for its sports teams, as opposition against the name grows.
A virtual townhall meeting with student athletes and SFU Athletics administration staff will be held Thursday night amid growing calls to change the name of sports teams at the school.
The meeting to change the teams' name from the SFU Clan comes amid a push for social change amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
While the clan name is a nod to Simon Fraser’s Scottish heritage, some students and athletes have raised concerns about racial overtones with the name being mistakenly tied to the Ku Klux Klan.
Some SFU sports teams play in both Canada and the United States.
Former SFU basketball player Othniel Spence, who is Black, launched an online petition to change the name, and outlined his own history playing under the clan name during his time at SFU.
He says he first felt uncomfortable when a coach asked the crowd to chant “go Clan” at a pep rally.
Spence also described what he called a demoralizing experience when he was confronted about the clan name by a man at a basketball game in Seattle.
“My heart skipped a beat, mainly because of the embarrassment I had. He was right. Where in North America have we allowed a school to have the sports teams named 'The Clan?' It shook me to my core. I couldn’t deny or defend the name of the school I represented,” Spence wrote in the Park Journal.
Spence says he took it upon himself to educate others on the team name, and said he felt embarrassed and ashamed of his choice to attend SFU when asked about the team name by family members.
“To carry this name felt as if I was carrying this burden along with me. It only became worse when we interacted with people in airports, along with fans, and random folks,” he wrote.
An online petition launched by Spence urging SFU to change the name has so far gathered more than 7,000 signatures.
Thursday’s virtual townhall meeting is happening at 6 p.m. and is expected to involve hundreds of students and athletes in favour of the change.
SFU football player Mason Glover, who is Black and American, is one of the current athletes pushing for the name change.
“I’ve had multiple people tell me, 'How are you Black and playing for a team name, called Clan,'" Glover told CTV Morning Live. "I think a lot of student athletes feel not necessarily proud of the name, and kind of feel embarrassed."
A similar push for a name change also took place in 2017, but was not successful.
Glover is hopeful this time will be different. Organizers have also created a hashtag for the movement, tagging posts with #iamnotyourclansman.
“We are fed up. We demand change, and we’re not going to stop pushing,” Glover said. “It’s not just that we really don’t like the name or we just really want a name change. No, we have had experiences that have lead us to this point”
SFU says a review of the nickname has been ongoing since the beginning of the year. It expects to make a recommendation to the school president in August, and expects a decision in the future of the “SFU Clan” name will be made official before students head back to school this fall.