By Riley Dauber
With their recent win at the fifty-seventh Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs are receiving more attention than ever. However, not all of the attention is positive; many are calling for the Chiefs to change their name and logo, since both are offensive to indigenous people.
The logo, an arrowhead with the KC initials, is only one aspect of the team’s branding that Native activists are against. They also want the team to change their name and to stop the use of war paint and headdresses at games. Fans also engage in the “tomahawk chop” chant, which many find offensive and mocking.
“People think they’re honoring us with these mascots and logos, but they’re mocking us,” actor and member of Kul Wicasa Oyate Lakota Lower Brulé Tribe Michael Spears said.
In 2020, Washington’s football team changed their name from the Redskins to the Washington Football Team. Many of the same concerns were issued, and the team risked losing sponsors if they did not change their name, according to the NFL website.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “In recent years, dozens of professional and school teams have eliminated offensive mascots mocking Native American cultures, including Washington’s football team and Cleveland’s baseball team. In 2021, more than 60 K-12 schools gave up their Native American mascots.”
If it is so easy for other sports teams and schools to change their racially-insensitive names, it should also be easy for the Chiefs to adapt and change.
According to USA Today, “The Chiefs have, over the years, dumped what activists say were the worst of its motifs – as they banned fake headdresses and Native-themed war paint from fan faces and initiated a working group of local Native American people to advise them.”
Despite these bans, many say that fans “continue to enter Arrowhead Stadium with inappropriate Native-themed headdresses and war paint.”
Although the name and fan traditions have been around for decades, it is never too late to recognize the harm these racially-insensitive motifs bring to the Native American community. While many protested outside the game on Feb. 12, it is clear their voices are going unheard, as the Chiefs have yet to issue a statement in response.
The NFL and sporting culture are meant to bring people together and build a supportive community for fans. But if a popular and successful team – the team that won the Super Bowl, no less – is sporting a name with offensive connotations, it can be harmful to fans and members of the Native American community.
It is even more ironic that the Super Bowl hosted a slew of Native American performers leading up to Sunday’s game, who were juxtaposed with the fans doing the ‘tomahawk chop’ chant.
“What the National Football League is doing inside Phoenix, by bringing in indigenous dancers and artists, [is] celebrating the authentic, which is wonderful. However, the NFL simultaneously condones Kansas City’s team and their names and monikers and their derogatory traditions,” artist and community organizer and member of the Gila River Community Cher Thomas said.
Although it may require an intensive process with paperwork, the Kansas City Chiefs should work to change their name while also recognizing the harm they have caused with their offensive name, logo, and fans’ paraphernalia. It may just be one step toward breaking down the racist connections, but one step is better than ignoring the issue.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: The Washington Football Team changed their name because it was insensitive to Native Americans, but the Kansas City Chiefs have yet to follow suit.