Just days before the Kansas City Chiefs compete in Super Bowl LVII, a protest group is renewing a call to change the team’s name, mascot and fan-driven «chop tomahawk.»
They are «hurting» Native Americans and even more so now that the team is once again playing the big game, according to Rhonda LeValdo, founder of the Kansas City-based Native American activist group Not In Our Honor.
«People are trying to be really positive about Kansas City and what it does and how, ‘Yeah, sports unites us all,'» LeValdo said at a news conference Thursday. «It’s not bringing our people together in this celebration. Really, it’s doing us more harm because now it’s the biggest spotlight where you see this around the world.»
LeValdo will be in Arizona for the Super Bowl on February 12, but will not watch the game. Instead, he will organize a protest outside State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
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The group is calling on the Chiefs to ditch their name, mascot and «chop,» the same goal protesters had in 2021 when they staged a rally outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, as the Chiefs sought a second straight NBA title. Super Bowl LV.
For Sunday’s rally, LeValdo will be joined by tribes in Arizona who also oppose the mascot and name.
The president of the Kansas City franchise says he respects their right to protest.
LeValdo’s protest, and others like it, have called on sports teams and other businesses to end the alleged appropriation of tribal cultures and images, which some say uses Native iconography and words to demean them and perpetuate racist stereotypes.
«There are also young people who come with us,» LeValdo said. «We hope the next generation will carry that. There will always be natives who will be against it. It won’t stop.»
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Amanda Blackhorse, who is Diné, a Navajo people, said the protests are called to remove potential mischaracterizations of their culture.
«The anti-native mascot movement has always been about bettering our natives, not hating other football fans,» Blackhorse told the Associated Press. «We want to live in a world where our children can go to school and feel included and not be met with fake war dance re-enactments on the football field.»
Some major sports teams have responded that the mascots are meant to honor and respect the tribes.
The protests have had such an impact that, in November 2021, the then-Cleveland Indians baseball team officially switched to the Guardians. The team also changed their mascot from Chief Wahoo, a Native American caricature.
In the NFL, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins also changed their name, as «Redskins» was considered by some to be a racial slur. The team became the Commanders.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan encouraged people to «educate themselves» about Native American culture, but gave no indication the team was considering a change.
«We also respect that we need to continue to educate and raise awareness about Native American culture and the things that we do to celebrate, that we’ve done more in the last seven years, I think, than any other team to raise awareness and educate ourselves,» he said. Donovan.
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In 2013, the Chiefs created the American Indian Community Task Force, which includes a group of Native Americans who serve as advisors to the team.
«I go up to them and say, ‘What do you think about this? How does this make you feel?'» Donovan said. «I’m very proud of the things we’ve done and the people we’ve worked with.»
The NFL has also emphasized its collaborations with Arizona-based Native Americans and Indians ahead of the big game, as the Grand Canyon state is home to 22 Native American tribes.
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Chiefs long snapper James Winchester is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and center Creed Humphrey is of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma.
The NFL has also partnered with native Chicana artist Lucinda Hinojos, who was born in Glendale and is of Apache and Yaqui descent. Her painting appears on every Super Bowl ticket.
Colin Denny, a researcher at the University of Arizona and a member of the Navajo Nation, will perform «America the Beautiful» during the pregame show. The performance will use both American Sign Language and American Indian Sign Language, as Denny is deaf.
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The Chiefs have taken pains to address concerns about cultural insensitivities that go back a decade, but they never go so far as to alter the team name or fan-favorite mannerisms and chants.
The Chiefs were initially called the Dallas Texans, but became the Chiefs when the franchise moved to Kansas City in 1963.
Associated Press contributed to this report.