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The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl on Sunday. They are enjoying the spotlight as the NFL champions. Now, it is time to change the team’s name.
The rationale, repeated by Indigenous Americans for years, is clear: The use of Indigenous names, images and, perhaps worst of all, fake dances and cheers is offensive. Explanations about history, traditions and honoring tribes do not overcome this simple fact. When Indigenous Americans say the team names and mascots are offensive, we should listen to them and change them.
“We are not those mascots,” Suzan Shown Harjo, a longtime Native American rights advocate and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, recently told ABC News. “And, if anyone wants to honor us, they will remove all of them from the entire sports horizon and let everyone get back to being athletes.”
The Cleveland Guardians, Washington Commanders and scores of teams at schools across the country have dropped offensive names and mascots. It is past time for the Chiefs to do the same. Ditto for the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks.
The Kansas City football team’s name does not have Indigenous origins, the team says on its website. The team, which moved from Texas in 1963, was called the Chiefs to honor H. Roe Bartle, who helped engineer the move. Bartle’s nickname was “Chief.” The team uses an arrowhead logo, plays at Arrowhead Stadium and tribal imagery was long used to promote the team.
“While the origin of the team’s name has no affiliation with American Indian culture, much of the club’s early promotional activities relied heavily on imagery and messaging depicting American Indians in a racially insensitive fashion,” a statement on the team’s website says. “Over the course of the club’s 60-plus-year history, the Chiefs organization has worked to eliminate this offensive imagery and other forms of cultural appropriation in their promotional materials and game-day presentation.”
The team, for example, has prohibited fans from wearing headdresses and facepaint to the stadium on game days. Fans, however, still do a “war chant” with a chopping gesture during games.
The team has had an American Indian Community Working Group for nearly 10 years. The group highlights “education” and “understanding” in a statement on the team website but the brief document does not address the team name.
Lifelong Kansas City sports fan Kelly Ehrenreich offered a timely solution in a column published this week by the Kansas City Star.
“The large stage Kansas City is enjoying now because of the incredible talent of our team shines the spotlight even brighter on the antiquated aspects of our name and some of our traditions,” she wrote.
“We are the class of the league — we should act like it. Take accountability for the harmful imagery we have employed and move on,” she added.
Ehrenreich suggests the football team become the Kansas City Kings. We leave it to the city’s sports fans and the team’s ownership to decide upon a new moniker, but it is time for the current name to be retired.