September 9, 2020

Statement to Kansas City Football Team from Not In Our Honor

Not in Our Honor is a coalition of local Native American leaders and American Indian organizations in the Kansas City metropolitan area who have been speaking out against the use of Native American stereotypes and misappropriation of Native American culture for many years.  

The decision of the Kansas City football team to prohibit fans from wearing “headdresses and face paint styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions,” this season is a step in the right direction.  While it may address the more blatant racist behaviors in the stadium, it does not address the overall racism and appropriation of Native culture inherent with utilizing a race of People as a mascot.  It is also a disservice to the fans.   While misguided at best, the fans are trying to support their team.  By identifying some behaviors as too “offensive” while reserving some behaviors (tomahawk chop) for review, the team not only robs fans of the full fan experience, they have made the determination that some racism is okay, but blatant racism is not.  This is directly in opposition to the recent statements made by the NFL, team owners, management, and players about social justice.  

Additionally, banning these behaviors is unlikely to stop devout fans from continuing to don headdresses and face paint in the parking lot, nor will it prevent the opposing team from racist behavior.   The opposing team will still use the same offensive signs and verbiage they have used for many years, such as, “send them back to the reservation,” “scalp them,” and “Trail of Tears.”    

The Kansas City’s team name was chosen in 1963 to honor a mayor nicknamed “The Chief” due to his founding of an imaginary Boy Scout Indian tribe.  This occurred before the Civil Rights movement and before the American Indian Civil Rights movement in the 1970s.   For decades, hundreds of tribes, national Indian organizations, and professional organizations have spoken out on this matter.  In 2005, the APA called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations, stating “Research has shown that the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities has a negative effect on not only American Indian students but all students…”      

The attempt to justify the maintenance of racist mascots because a very small number of Native Americans accept it, when a majority of us vehemently oppose them is shocking.  A recent study found the more connected the individual Native is with their culture (language, traditions, ceremonies), the stronger their opposition.

Lastly, with the NFL also stating they will be stenciling in  “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” in the endzones, we call on the Kansas City team to:

  1. Cease the use of racialized Native American branding by eliminating all imagery of or evocative of Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality from their team franchise by changing the name including the logo. This includes the use of Native terms, drum, arrows, or monikers that assume the presence of Native American culture.
  2. Apply the NFL’s “zero tolerance” for on-field use of racial and homophobic slurs to all races and ethnic groups, especially Native Peoples.

Not In Our Honor Coalition

Rhonda LeValdo, Amanda Blackhorse, Ed Thomas Smith, Jimmy Beason, Sherana Becenti, Carole Cadue-Blackwood, Gaylene Crouser, Kansas City Indian Center, American Indian Council-Region VII

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