With the current climate of racism today, and the recent deaths of Daunte Wright and George Floyd, it’s great to see our favorite sports teams stand in solidarity with us to fight against racism and police brutality. Whether it’s wearing a new game day uniform with “Black Lives Matter” stitched on the back or writing “End Racism” around the end zone of a football field, the intentions from our sports teams are clear. But, if the sports world, really wants to make a difference to end racism, they need to change their team names and logos, and address their imperfect history.
Sports teams can say they stand with us to end racism, but it’s been shown that they’re picking and choosing who to stand with. It’s hard to take a sports team seriously when they claim to want to end racism and display it at their games but are named the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Kansas City Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl this past February, the event created an immense amount of controversy rather than excitement. According to Christopher Brito from CBS, Native American rights groups are “urging the Kansas City Chiefs to retire the teams name and stop fans from using the tomahawk chop (Brito, 2021).” After years of Indigenous people dealing with mass genocide, teams being named after Native Americans isn’t seen as a form of remembrance, but instead disrespectful and dehumanizing.
The history of the Kansas City team name was never to represent Native Americans, but instead to pay tribute to former mayor Harold Bartle in 1963, whose nickname was “The Chief”. Something that was created so long ago seems like it should be easy to break away from, especially one that is seen as racially charged. If teams need assistance as to why they should change their name, perhaps they need to do some research. Native American mascots have a negative psychological impact on the Native American community, low self-esteem, low community worth, increased stress and depression, are just a few cons the misrepresentation of these teams create.
In 2020, the state of “Maine, became the first to ban Native American Mascots at all public schools (Board, 2020)”, something that took long, but in the end was successful. If getting shown up by grade school kids isn’t enough encouragement to make a change, the Chiefs should look at the Washington Football Team, previously known as the Washington Redskins. The Washington Football team was the “last team in the NFL to integrate in 1962, and for years was asked by Indigenous Americans to change their name. As of last summer, the Football team finally has changed their name to the Washington Football Team and has removed all imagery associated with Native American Culture, so for the Kansas City Chiefs, the pressure is on.
It’s not a good look for the Kansas City team to turn a blind eye to the racism their team name holds. With the current climate of racism today, it becomes exhausting to see that we still have to not only fight to end it but ask to ban offensive nicknames and team names in 2021. If you look around, there aren’t any sports teams named the Blacks, or The Jews, and it’s because its racist and wrong. So why is it ok to appropriate Native Americans culture, wear their spiritual headdresses and clothing as if it’s your own and represent a mascot like you know what it truly stands for? Sounds like what Christopher Columbus did in 1492.
Many claim these mascots and team names are honoring Native Americans, and see no issue with this problematic situation, but in reality, these names are a contribution to oppression faced by Native Americans and need to be removed. Mascots and Indian nicknames honor no one and are offensive. If teams are so adamant about ending racism, they need to take a look in the mirror and see who the oppressor really is.