The Kansas City Chiefs are doing away with some of their team’s most popular traditions in the wake of the fallout from this summer’s racial protests.
The team, led by biracial quarterback Patrick Mahomes —who they just locked into a ten-year deal—, has rethought celebrations and fan costumes deemed to be insensitive to Native Americans.
The Chiefs have already announced they will play with fans in the audience of their open-air stadium, Arrowhead. They announced this week that they expect to defend their Super Bowl championship with 16,000 fans in attendance, about 22% of the 72,936 seating capacity, according to ESPN.
But those fans will have to find some new traditions to celebrate what is looking like a dynasty in the midwestern city. With tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones also locked in with contract extensions for the next four years, the team’s nucleus at core positions is set.
But with the renaming of the Washington Football Team from its previous years as the Washington Redskins, the days of Native American logos and dubiously themed chants and costumes may be at an end.
The Chiefs released a statement today confirming the changes.
“In 2014, we began a dialogue with a group of local leaders from diverse American Indian backgrounds and experiences. As an organization, our goal was to gain a better understanding of the issues facing American Indian communities in our region and explore opportunities to both raise awareness of American Indian cultures and celebrate the rich traditions of tribes with a historic connection to the Kansas City area.”
The statement continued:
“We are grateful for the meaningful conversations we have had with all of these American Indian leaders. It is important that we continue the dialogue on these significant topics, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future.”
While headdresses and ‘war paint’ have been banned, the ‘Arrowhead chop’ is a fan favorite. It was once known as the ‘Tomahawk chop’ but that was changed some years ago. The Atlanta Braves in baseball and the Florida Seminoles in college football use it as well.
The Chiefs are believed to have begun the practice in 1990. Though the chop is associated with a warrior spirit, in Native American culture, the tomahawk is not a weapon but a revered cultural object, according to Slate.
Fan response was decidedly mixed. Some vowed to continue the chop, citing political correctness, while others felt that the team was moving in the right direction by banning Native American garb and chants.
As reported by theGrio, in a viral video Mahomes who is the team’s franchise player and a young face of the league, advocated for the NFL to declare that Black Lives Matter in the midst of this summer’s racial protests. Other players in the video included the Saints’ Michael Thomas, the Giant’s Saquon Barkley, and others widely acknowledged as the future of the sport.
With the name change for the Washington Football Team, the Chief’s decision to get ahead of their controversial celebrations just makes sense.
Rhonda LeValdo, who is part of the Acoma Pueblo community and teaches media communications at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, says that its time the team changed everything associated with the name and logo. She told the Kansas City Star that while today’s move was in the right direction, there was more the team needed to do.
“They’ve always told us that they were not representing Native American people, so for me, I thought, ‘Wow, you’re finally admitting that,’” LeValdo said. “But everything needs to go. It’s either racist or it’s not, and it’s racist.”