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Simon Fraser University reveals new name for varsity sports

SFU retired its former name, the Clan, in 2020
Simon Fraser University's new varsity team name is the Red Leafs.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) has a new varsity team name: the Red Leafs. 

In summer 2020, the Burnaby post-secondary school made the decision to retire its previous name, the Clan, based on the results of an engagement process outlined in a report commissioned by Athletics and Recreation. 

Former SFU President Andrew Petter said he decided to move forward with the name change based on feedback from the community, particularly from student-athletes, coaches and associated staff. 

"As a university, our number one duty is to foster a supportive environment for our students," Petter said in an August 2020 news release

"Our student athletes are dedicated to their sport and education, and negative interactions with others about the persistent misinterpretation or misuse of their team name should not be a burden they have to bear."

Current president Joy Johnson, who joined SFU in the following fall, issued a statement saying she was in strong support of the change. 

Johnson added since SFU is Canada's only NCAA team which competes in the United States, the name "Clan" is "impossible to separate from the Ku Klux Klan."

"The troubling histories aren’t confined to the US; the KKK and anti-Black racism exist here in Canada," she said. 

"We must stand up against anti-Black racism at all levels—individual, institutional, and systemic—and stand with and for our Black students, colleagues and friends at every opportunity. Many from our community actively shared their voices in support of the name change. I acknowledge and thank you all for your commitment to a better SFU."

The university engaged in a renaming process to find a team name that reflected SFU's values, inspired unity and be a source of pride. 

A varsity team name working group was established in January 2021.

In the revealing of the new name, the school says athletes and coaches have competed under SFU's iconic leaf for generations and the logo is recognized as a symbol of unity across its campuses. 

"The Red Leafs reflects the university’s identity as Canada’s only NCAA team and unifies their diverse community under that banner," the announcement reads. 

"Being a part of this process is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life," co-chair of the working group Ryan Stolys added. 

"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 and 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."

When name options were established, consultations were conducted with student groups, including the Simon Fraser Students Society, Indigenous Students Centre and representatives from the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestory (SOCA) and SFU First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Association (FNMISA). 

Feedback was also sought from nine Indigenous Host Nations. 

"I'm proud that the university is moving forward under the Red Leafs name," Johnston stated. 

"We feel it captures the heritage and spirit of SFU, and its unique role in collegiate sports. After a lot of consultation, we have heard that it is a name that everyone in our community can be proud of and I can’t wait to cheer on our teams together."

The SFU Red Leafs will debut the new name and look with a team launch party at Convocation Mall on Thursday (Sept. 8) before the women's volleyball game against Montana State-Billings at 7 p.m.