What’s in a name?: Controversy surrounds Chief’s name


Nathan Lokenvitz

The Kansas City Chiefs logo printed in conjunction with the team name.

Nathan Lokenvitz, Multimedia Manager

This past summer a surge in protests for racial justice and equality led to a number of sports teams, both at the national and local levels, changing their names and imagery due to the names being racially insensitive. 

The Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Indians are two of the most widely known sports organizations to listen to groups of protesters and comply with their wishes to either change the name altogether, as seen with Washington, or change their mascot to a non-racially insensitive mascot, as seen with Cleveland. 

While these are major steps in getting rid of all racially derogatory terms and team names in the sports industry, there is still a lot of progress to be made. The Kansas City Chiefs are another organization that has been under fire for their use of Native American culture being associated with all aspects of the franchise. Despite the Chiefs being brought up in debates over Native American imagery and mascots in sports, they have dodged a lot of the controversy since their name does not evoke a direct slur like the Washington Football Team’s former name and logo did.

Many people want the name to be changed, however the bigger concern is that the team gets rid of the associating apparel and chants that are considered offensive and mockery towards Native culture. “It’s not the name that disappoints me as much as the associations it brings. Fans show up wearing native costumes, doing tomahawk chops and other racially insensitive shouts that paint a caricature of native culture and people,” stated senior Taze Wilson. 

The Chiefs organization has taken the initiative over the past six years to work closely with Native Americans in order to implement reform on some of the teams’ traditions. One of the major steps was for the organization to discourage fans from dressing in stereotypical American Indian dresswear, and they went a step further by telling broadcasters to never show fans who continued to wear the insensitive attire. 

Groups such as the Kansas City Indian Center (KCIC) continue to fight for the traditions such as the chop to be stopped completely, and are urging fans to discontinue the infamous cheering method special to the Chiefs. “And things like the tomahawk chop don’t empower Indian people. It’s still very stereotypical and mocking of an entire race of people,” claimed Gaylene Crouser, the executive director at KCIC. 

Becoming educated is the first step in recognizing the issue with insensitive traditions such as the chop. “I think that in modern day times it’s important to try to respect everyone’s ideals and I believe that the fans should be shown somehow, that some of the current traditions are insensitive. From there hopefully they’ll either change them or make new ones to make everyone feel better,” stated senior Joe Reece.

Many people claim that the chop was not created to mock indigenous culture, but in reality, all that matters is how that group of individuals views it now. Whether it was created to mock or simply created because it fit the theme of the organization and got the crowd pumped, is irrelevant.

What these groups fighting for racial justice want people to see as important is that people need to recognize that if something is deemed insensitive towards a certain group, then people need to respect the viewpoints of those members and work to create positive change.

In the past few years alone there have been major steps taken forward in regards to the removal of racist, insensitive team names and mascots in the sports industry. There is still a long way to go in order to solve this worldwide issue, but progress has consistently been made and the effects are positive thus far.