KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More people around the country watching the Kansas City Chiefs means more eyeballs on the “Tomahawk Chop” and the name of the team. Now the team is under new pressure to stop it.
It’s a controversy Chiefs Kingdom has faced for years, but now drivers on some metro highways can’t ignore it.
Driving through Kansas City you can’t ignore all the Chiefs themed billboards. Some feature Patrick Mahomes, others with the Chiefs logo, or even some in red and yellow. However, two billboards are asking the Chiefs to change. One is located off I-70 near the Benton Blvd exit, and another near 103rd & I-435.
“Change the name. Stop the Chop.” It’s a message the Kansas City Indian Center wants the Chiefs to hear loud and clear.
“They have the power to make actual change, positive change for social justice, and they choose not to use it,” Gaylene Crouser the executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center said.
The billboards were paid for with funds from a social justice grant to the KCIC.
This season, an initiative for the NFL and many players on the Chiefs is social justice. During the Chiefs first home game, players stood locked arm in arm with the Texans in a symbol of unity. Singer, Alicia Keys, sang the Black National Anthem ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ and end zones displayed the words “end racism.”
However, Crouser says for her the effort fell flat.
“It was just the hypocrisy when I saw the words end racism stenciled on the field above the name of the team,” Crouser said.
Down in Tampa, where the Chiefs are getting ready to play in the Super Bowl, another group is getting ready to protest. Florida Indigenous Rights & Environmental Equality is based in St. Petersburg and wants to make sure the Chiefs know how they feel.
“How can this come to our backyard and us not say anything, then we wouldn’t be holding true to who we are and what we stand for,” Norris said.
Norris said she finds the Chiefs name disrespectful, and hopes they change it along with retiring the Arrowhead Chop.
“I think there are other ways to do that and bring honor, the problem is, is the Chiefs already established themselves in this space, and it’s very hard for them to wiggle out of it, when you have had that name for so long,” Norris said.
Connie Jo Gillespie lives in the metro and is East Woodland Shawnee, Canadian Cree and Mississippi Chickasaw. She’s been a Chiefs fan her whole life and sees the Chiefs name as a way to educate others.
“There’s opportunities there to culturally educate. So that people who are not familiar with our cultures and traditions, they can become familiar, and they learn to respect our culture and they don’t want to appropriate it,” Gillespie said.
She was pleased when the Chiefs organization made the decision in August to ban Native American headdresses and traditional face painting from the stadium. The feathers in their headdresses represent instances of bravery and she says they deserve respect.
“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,” said the Chiefs.
They also made a number of measures and policies:
- Face painting is still allowed for all fans, but any face paint that is styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions is prohibited.
- Fans will be asked to remove any American Indian-themed face paint prior to passing security screening outside the stadium.
- The ‘Arrowhead Chop’ is under review and The Chiefs plan to have additional discussions in the future.
- The Chiefs are exploring all options for a modified engagement moment from the Drum Deck that maintains a unifying effect between fans and players but better represents the spiritual significance of the drum in American Indian cultures.
- As allowed by NFL guidelines and the City of Kansas City Health Department for the coronavirus-impacted 2020 season, The Chiefs will continue with many traditions such as the Blessing of the Four Directions, the Blessing of the Drum, and inviting local tribe-members The Chiefs’ American Indian Heritage Month Game.
- 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.
FOX4 reached out to the Chiefs organization for response to the billboards and protests, but they did not respond.