NFL Indigenous Activists Protest Kansas City Chiefs Name ‘Tomahawk Chop’

By Amy Tennery and James Oliphant

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Native American groups are expected to protest the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and urge the AFC champions to drop their name and logo if they take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57.

The Chiefs wear the arrowhead logo on their helmet and use a bass drum to cheer on their home games while fans routinely sing the so-called “tomahawk chop” chant, which critics say relies on offensive and racist stereotypes.

This is their third trip to the NFL title game in four years, and Kansas City fans can hear the “tomahawk chop” chant throughout Phoenix. It’s a startling contrast to the culture and pride of the Native Americans, who invited the hosts of the Super Bowl to attend in the days leading up to the game.

Dancers from Indigenous Enterprise performed at Monday’s opening ceremonies, becoming the first Native Americans to perform at the annual media mega-event.

In an odd juxtaposition, they took the stage minutes after Kansas City fans in attendance at the Footprint Center had joined in a loud “Tomahawk Chop” chant.

“What the NFL is doing in Phoenix by bringing Indigenous dancers and performers celebrates the authentic of what is wonderful,” said Cher Thomas, an artist, community organizer and member of the Gila River community. She will protest outside the game on Sunday.

“However, at the same time, the NFL condones the Kansas City team and their names and nicknames and their derogatory traditions.”

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chiefs supporter Benny Blades, 55, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he admired the team for “sticking to their guns” as he stood in Old Town Scottsdale, where fans engaged in impromptu “Tomahawk” Chanting erupted on streets lined with shops selling Native American handicrafts.

“We can’t say anything right now because you’re going to offend one or two percent of the people of the United States,” he said.

Scottsdale is directly adjacent to the Salt River-Maricopa Indian community of more than 7,000 people, one of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes.

At Sunday’s preshow, when singer Babyface performs “America the Beautiful,” Navajo Colin Denny will provide North American Indian Sign Language interpretation.

Chiefs fans are sure to chant the “Tomahawk Chop” cheer loudly in the minutes leading up to kickoff, just as they did at their previous two Super Bowl appearances before the game.

The Chiefs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Tohono O’odham Nation, which are partners of the Super Bowl hosting committee, did not respond to multiple interview requests. Another partner, the Gila River Indian Community, did not provide a tour.

It’s far from the first time the chief’s name and traditions have come under fire.

In 2019, the Kansas City Star called for an end to chanting and chopping hand gestures.

Months later, in the days leading up to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl triumph over the San Francisco 49ers, the team told Reuters that over the past six years, they had “participated in meaningful discussions with a group of people from diverse Native American backgrounds and experiences.” have.

But amid a nationwide reckoning over the race fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement, her name and most of her traditions remained intact even when the Washington Redskins dropped her moniker in July 2020. The Washington team later replaced the nickname, widely considered a racial slur, with the commander.

A month later, the Chiefs announced they would ban the wearing of hats at Arrowhead Stadium, where the words “No Racism” were painted on the end zone and emblazoned on helmets as a nod to racial justice.

“They use this hashtag #EndRacism and it’s on their helmets. And he’s not musical,” said Rhonda LeValdo, an Acoma Pueblo journalist who founded the Not in Our Honor coalition in 2005 to oppose the use of Native American imagery in sports.

“I don’t even understand what you guys are saying and you guys have the Chiefs logo and you guys do the hoe.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery and James Oliphant in Phoenix; Editing by David Gregorio)


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