Analysis Opinion

With Washington’s likely name change, the Chiefs may be looking at some conflict down the road

Following the Washington Redskins latest debate to change their name, other major sports teams seem to be in “danger” of changing their monikers.

Among them are the Kansas City Chiefs. The recent national debate over racism has renewed calls to change some teams’ name that are considered racist. Native Americans have wanted a change for years and think the current political situation is finally right for an action. Many sponsors followed them in their call for a change, putting a lot of pressure on the first NFL team with an obvious ambiguous name, the Washington Redskins.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, protests have erupted all around the world, with much of the conversation centered on racism.

“We are very much in a moment of reckoning around equity concerns in this country,” the University of Michigan diversity of social transformation professor of psychology Stephanie Fryberg said. “At some point, the NFL as an organization is going to have to make a decision whether teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington football team should be allowed to continue to systematically discriminate against Native people.”

Could be the names, the traditions or the cultural appropriation, but many observers believe that the “Tomahawk Chop” used by the Kansas City Chiefs for example is a Native American imagery that should be out of professional sports and many are mentioning the Chiefs for the next team to be in danger for a name change.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt declared back in the 90’s “I can show you many, many letters from the Indian community that support [the name Chiefs]. It’s a name that implies leadership. We think it’s emblematic of leadership and a colorful heritage of the area.”

However, the name for Kansas City’s football team does not really embrace the native American culture of the area. In fact, the former Kansas City mayor Harold Roe Bartle insisted for the Dallas Texans to move to KC, and convinced the owner Lamar Hunt to name the team after Bartle’s nickname, “The Chief.”

Bartle was well known for his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, he created a sort of tribe called the “Mic-O-Say“ and was called “Lone Bear Chief”. Obviously, the name for the football team was not tied to Native American imagery, but to one single white business man.

However, according to a 2016 article in The Kansas City Star, “‘Chiefs’popped up time and again in a name-the-team contest.” Eventually, the team’s general manager Jack Steadman told owner Lamar Hunt  “There’s just no other name we can select.”

Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “A spokesman for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs declined to comment on whether the team is reviewing anything in this area (a name change).

“At issue for some of these organizations is not just their name and imagery but deeply embedded traditions. Fans of both the Braves and Chiefs, for example, regularly employ the ‘Tomahawk Chop,’ a cheer where they pretend to chop the air along with a faux war chant that is widely seen as a cartoonish depiction of Native Americans. Even beyond that, fans of teams like the Chiefs wear headdresses to games and engage in other rituals. Kansas City, for instance, begins its home games with a ceremonial banging of a drum. The team has previously touted its work with communities every November during Native American Heritage month.”

Maybe the Kansas City Chiefs are guilty of using stereotypes in their game traditions after all…Thus, they could be in danger of being heavily pushed to change their names and find a more appropriate designation. To this day, Kansas City’s NFL team retains the controversial name, but who knows what can still happen during this crazy year that is 2020.

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