Canada’s Only NCAA School Announces New Name After Dropping Controversial ‘Clan’ Identity

Simon Fraser is a public research university located in Burnaby, British Columbia with just over 30,000 students. On September 4, 2010, it became the only Canadian school in the NCAA after joining on the Division-II level. Its football team competes in the Lone Star Conference.

A lot of controversy surrounding the university’s nickname, ‘The Clan,’ came with the move. It was shortened from the original ‘Clansman.’

The old name was a nod to the heritage of Scottish explorer and fur trader Simon Fraser. A Scottish clan is a kinship group among the Scottish people— hence, ‘Clansman’ and then later ‘The Clan.’

However, because it could be mistakenly tied to the Ku Klux Klan, a petition was signed by more than 13,000 people in 2020. It pushed the school to change its name. After the school conducted an internal review of SFU’s ‘Clan’ nickname — and a lot of public discussion — it determined that it would make a change.

Simon Fraser University No Longer Known As ‘The Clan.’

A statement from Simon Fraser’s presidents office in November of 2020 read:

“I’d like to pause and reflect — and ask our community to take a moment to reflect — on the work of Black student-athletes, students, faculty and staff in advancing this conversation to its rightful conclusion… I understand that raising concerns and sharing personal experiences of racism are painful for Black students, faculty and staff and this is not a burden they should bear. I also want to acknowledge the activism of Black students, faculty and staff that took place over the years leading up to this decision.”

In turn, the school began an extensive process to pick a new nickname. Simon Fraser worked alongside multiple student groups to come up with a new moniker, including Simon Fraser Students Society, Indigenous Students Centre, and representatives from the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) and SFU First Nations, Metis and Inuit Student Association (FNMISA). The university also received feedback on its new name from nine Indigenous Host Nations.

Simon Fraser officially announced its new varsity team name — The Red Leafs.

Simon Fraser University went public with the new name in an announcement earlier this week.

According to the university, ‘The Red Leafs’ reflects Simon Fraser’s identity as Canada’s only NCAA team. It “unifies their diverse community under that banner.”

In addition, a red leaf has also been used in the university’s logo for quite some time. The school’s mantra is “Rep The Leaf.”

simon-fraser-university-clan-clansman-nickname-change-red-leafs
(courtesy: Simon Fraser Athletics)

Thus, the new name makes perfect sense.

“Being a part of this process is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said Ryan Stolys, co-chair of the working group, past president of the SAAC and current golf student-athlete. “The Varsity Athletics Team Name Working Group was made up of an amazing group of student athletes, coaches and staff from across SFU Athletics and SFU student group representatives. After thorough discussion and consultation, the Red Leafs name was the one that met our criteria the best. It connects with our existing unique leaf that so many athletes before us have competed under. It builds in our representation of Canada when competing in the United States as Canada’s only NCAA team. I hope that this name is one all SFU athletes and students can connect with and that we can Rep The Leaf together.”

Simon Fraser is not the only Canadian school, team or organization to change its name in recent years. McGill University changed its men’s teams from the ‘Redmen’ to the ‘Redbirds’ in 2019. The Canadian Football League’s Edmonton organization changed its name from the ‘Eskimos’ to the ‘Elks’ in 2020.

The SFU Red Leafs will debut its new name when the women’s volleyball team takes the court Thursday. The football team will follow Sept. 17 at its home opener.

Written by Grayson Weir

Grayson doesn't drink coffee. He wakes up Jacked.

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