Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Native American groups renew protests of Chiefs

- By Terry Tang

PHOENIX — Two years ago as the Chiefs were vying for a second consecutiv­e Super Bowl victory in Tampa, Florida, there was one group outside Raymond James Stadium picketing their appearance.

Native American protesters were calling for the Chiefs to drop their name, logo and their trademark “war chant” where fans make a chopping-hand gesture mimicking the Native American tomahawk.

They even hired a plane to fly around the area. Before game day, there were two online petitions and billboards of protest erected in Kansas City.

Now as the Chiefs return to Super Bowl Sunday for the first time in two years in Arizona, protesters will be there again.

Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots is planning to demonstrat­e outside State Farm Stadium in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.

Fights against appropriat­ion of tribal cultures and images have been going on for decades — not just with the Chiefs but with multiple teams across different sports. Native Americans say using iconograph­y and words with Native connotatio­ns demeans them and perpetuate­s racist stereotype­s.

Supporters have felt more emboldened in the last few years. A lot of teams previously countered that the mascots were meant to show tribes respect. But the racial reckoning and protests of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd compelled some franchises to do some soul-searching. The Cleveland Indians baseball team officially changed to the Guardians in November 2021. They also axed Chief Wahoo, a logo which was a caricature of an Indian American.

It was a year ago this month that the

Washington Football Team was anointed the Commanders. That move came after 18 months of pressure to drop the Redskins.

The Chiefs have made efforts to address concerns about cultural insensitiv­ities going back a decade but always stop short of altering their name or fan-favorite gestures and chants. In 2013, the team began discussion­s with the American Indian Community Working Group. This led to invitation­s for Cheyenne spiritual and ceremonial leaders to take part at some games. It wasn’t until 2020 — when the Washington team first decided to change their name — that the Chiefs issued a ban on fans donning tribal headdresse­s, war paint and clothing at Arrowhead Stadium.

They also changed the tomahawk “chop” with cheerleade­rs using a closed fist instead of an open palm. Native American organizati­ons called the changes “laughable.”

The franchise has also made a point to participat­e in American Indian Heritage Month, which is in November. Most recently, they posted a video with long snapper James Winchester, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and center Creed Humphrey, who’s from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

This Super Bowl protest is happening in a state where a quarter of the land belongs to Native Americans. The NFL has been emphasizin­g its collaborat­ions with Native and Indigenous people based in Arizona.

Lucinda Hinojos, who was born in Glendale and is of Apache and Yaqui descent, became the first Native and Chicana artist to partner with the NFL. Her painting is on all Super Bowl tickets and throughout the NFL Experience. Colin Denny, a University of Arizona researcher and a member of the Navajo Nation, will perform “America the Beautiful” during the game’s pre-show.

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