The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl on Sunday, but the cheers and jeers won’t only be football-related. Native American groups are planning protests this weekend against the Chiefs’ name and their tomahawk chop “war chant” rally.
While the team made changes last year, banning fans from wearing headdresses and Native American-themed face paint to games, some people believe that’s just the first step. Cheerleaders have also altered the way in which they perform the chop.
According to the Associated Press, St. Petersburg-based Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality will lead a protest outside Raymond James Stadium before kickoff. Group co-founder Alicia Norris called the chop chant “extremely disrespectful,” and said it “conjures up images of Native Americans, indigenous people as savages.”
“Now the team wants to backtrack and say we are being culturally appropriate and we are being respectful of indigenous people by saying no headdresses,” Norris added. “And that is a good start, but the fans are still operating as if it is an indigenous-type atmosphere because you are still called the Chiefs. And you can still do this movement that looks like a tomahawk chop, but we are going to call it a drum beat instead. It is kind of silly. Just change it.”
In August of 2020, the Chiefs announced it would be reviewing the chop but no official update has been released. Chiefs president Mark Donovan said actions the organization took banning headdresses and face paint was a “big step.”
“You are going to have opinions on all sides on what we should and shouldn’t do,” Donovan said. “We’re going to continue to have those discussions. We’re going to continue to make changes going forward, and hopefully changes that do what we hope, which is respect and honor Native American heritage while celebrating the fan experience.
Opinions from all sides haven’t slowed down. In fact, with the Chiefs playing in back-to-back Super Bowl games, national attention surrounding the name and chant have only grown.
“They think that that somehow helps, and they are still playing that ridiculous Hollywood Indian song, which is such a stereotypical Indian song from like old Cowboy movies or something,” Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, said. “I don’t know how they feel that that made any difference at all,” she said. “And its not like their fans are doing it any different either.”
Fans, however, feel the chop chant brings the crowd together with one person even calling it the ” soul” and “lifeblood” of the group.
“When we are down it is a rally cry,” another fan, Kile Chaney, said. “Just to hear all the fans doing the tomahawk chop and hear it echo through the corridors, it is a beautiful noise that we make here.”
Sports teams have been feeling the pressure to change offensive names and retire problematic mascots over the past few years. The Cleveland Indians phased out Chief Wahoo starting in 2018 and say they are in the process of changing the team name. The Washington Redskins recently changed their name to the “Washington Football Team” until they select a final, new name.
Do you think the Kansas City Chiefs should change their name and drop the chop? Will you be supporting the protests ahead of the Super Bowl?