KANSAS CITY, Mon. (WDAF) – The more people across the country watching the Kansas City Chiefs mean more eyeballs on the Tomahawk Chop and team name. Now the team is under renewed pressure to stop it.
It’s a controversy that Chiefs Kingdom has faced for years, but now, drivers in the Kansas City area can’t ignore it.
As you drive around town, it’s hard to miss all of the Chiefs-themed billboards. Some feature Patrick Mahomes, others the Chiefs logo, or even some in red and yellow. However, two billboards tell the Chiefs to change. One is on I-70 near the Benton Blvd exit and another near 103rd & I-435.
“Change the name. Stop chopping. “It’s a message the Kansas City Indian Center wants the Chiefs to hear loud and clear.
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“They have the power to make real change, positive change for social justice, and they choose not to use it,” said Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center.
The billboards were paid for with funds from a social justice grant to the KCIC.
This season, Social Justice is an initiative for the NFL and many of the Chiefs’ players. During the Chiefs’ first home game, the players stood arm in arm with the Texans as a symbol of unity. Singer Alicia Keys sang the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the words “End Racism” were displayed in the end zones.
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However, Crouser says the effort fell flat for her.
“It was just hypocrisy when I saw the words ‘end racism’ being stenciled on the field above the team’s name,” said Crouser.
Down in Tampa, where the Chiefs are preparing to play in the Super Bowl, another group is preparing for the protest. Florida Indigenous Rights & Environmental Equality is based in St. Petersburg and wants to make sure the chiefs know how they are feeling.
“How can that get into our backyard and we don’t say anything, then we wouldn’t hold on to who we are and what we stand for,” said Norris.
Norris said she found the chief’s name disrespectful and hoped they would change it and pull the arrowhead chop off.
“I think there are other ways to do this and bring honor. The problem is that the Chiefs have already settled in this area and it’s very difficult for them to break away from it when you’ve had that name for so long. Said Norris.
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Connie Jo Gillespie lives on the Subway and is East Woodland Shawnee, Canadian Cree, and Mississippi Chickasaw. She has been a fan of the Chiefs her entire life and sees the Chiefs name as a way of educating others.
“There are opportunities for cultural education there. In order for people who are not familiar with our cultures and traditions to become familiar, they learn to respect our culture and they do not want to appropriate it, ”said Gillespie.
She was delighted when the Chiefs Organization made the decision in August to remove Native American headdresses and traditional makeup from the stadium. The feathers in her headgear are examples of valor and she says they deserve respect.
“As an organization, our aim was to better understand the issues facing the Native American communities in our area and to explore ways to raise awareness of both Native American cultures and the rich traditions of tribes with historical ties to the Kansas City area to celebrate, “said the Chiefs.
You have also taken a number of measures and guidelines:
- Make-up is still allowed for all fans, but any face-paint that is designed in such a way that it refers to or appropriates Native American cultures and traditions is prohibited.
- Fans are asked to remove all Native American-themed face paints before passing the security clearance outside the stadium.
- The Arrowhead Chop is currently under review and The Chiefs plan to have further discussions in the future.
- The Chiefs are exploring all of the options for a modified engagement moment from the drum deck that maintains a uniform effect between fans and players, but better reflects the spiritual significance of the drum in Native American cultures.
- According to NFL guidelines and the Kansas City City Health Department for the 2020 coronavirus-hit season, the Chiefs will continue with many traditions such as the Blessing of the Four Directions, the Blessing of the Drum, and inviting local tribesmen to Chiefs’ American Indian Heritage Month game .
- We are grateful for the meaningful conversations we have had with all of these Indian leaders. It is important that we continue the dialogue on these important issues and we look forward to working together in the future.
FOX4 reached out to the Chiefs Organization to respond to the billboards and protests, but they didn’t respond.