The Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality group plans to protest prior to Sunday’s game. The protest will include singing and signs. The group’s co-founder, Alicia Norris, called the tomahawk chop “extremely disrespectful,” according to the AP.
“Now the team wants to backtrack and say we are being culturally appropriate and we are being respectful of indigenous people by saying no headdresses," she said. “And that is a good start, but the fans are still operating as if it is an indigenous-type atmosphere because you are still called the Chiefs. And you can still do this movement that looks like a tomahawk chop, but we are going to call it a drum beat instead. It is kind of silly. Just change it."
Pressure is mounting for the Chiefs to take action after the Washington Football Team changed its name, and Cleveland’s MLB team announced it would change its name. The Atlanta Braves have faced similar criticism, though like the Chiefs they have not indicated they are changing their names.
In both situations, the issue has been magnified by recent events. The Chiefs are playing on the NFL’s biggest stage for the second straight year, which is always going to draw more attention to the team. As a result, billboards have gone up in Kansas City asking the team to change its name and stop the tomahawk chop.
Henry Aaron’s death prompted some to argue the Braves should change their name to the Hammers as a way to honor Aaron, whose nickname was “Hammer.”
Chiefs made changes to fan policies in 2020
The Chiefs attempted to cut down on offensive gestures by banning fans from wearing headdresses or Native American-themed face paint to games in 2020. In August, the team announced it would review the tomahawk chop. The team’s cheerleaders reportedly use a closed hand gesture now during the team’s drum beat. In the past, they used the chop motion.
Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, says those changes don’t go far enough.
“They think that that somehow helps, and they are still playing that ridiculous Hollywood Indian song, which is such a stereotypical Indian song from like old Cowboy movies or something. I don’t know how they feel that that made any difference at all,” she said. “And its not like their fans are doing it any different either.”
Norris indicated banning headdresses was “a good start,” but agreed that the Chiefs still aren’t doing enough to address the issue.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan told the AP the team was going to continue discussing the issue. Donovan said the team’s goal was to “honor Native American heritage while celebrating the fan experience.”
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