Super Bowl 2021: Native American Groups Erect Anti ‘Tomahawk Chop’ Chant Billboards in Kansas City

by Halle Ames

With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, Kansas City Chiefs fans are under pressure to eradicate the “Tomahawk Chop” chant.

Native American groups are calling the “war chant” out of date and racist. The cheer consists of fans chanting while making a chopping hand motion made to mimic the Native American tomahawk.

The Native American groups have taken to billboards in the Kansas City area to raise awareness of the protest to the Chief’s name and their chant.

This isn’t the first time the issue has been brought up. Groups have argued the names, mascots, and traditions of numerous teams are derogatory to Native Americans.

Teams Follow Suit

The Washington Football Team has cut ties with their previous name, the Redskins, after constant calls for change. The Cleveland Indians have also changed their Chief Wahoo logo. The Atlanta Braves had previously banned their version of the “Tomahawk Chop” from games, but it is still unknown if the change will be permanent.

However, the Kansas City Chiefs have continuously denied calls for a name change, after many have deemed it offensive. Although, after two straight years of making it to the Super Bowl, the pressure had only increased. Thousands have signed online petitions to change the organization’s name.

The Chiefs have made minor changes, though. Since the fall, the team has banned headdresses and war paint. Their cheerleaders have also modified the “chop” with a closed hand to signal the beating of a drum.

A Call for Change

Many say this isn’t enough.

Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, says nothing has changed in the stereotypical cheer.

“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 it’s not like their fans are doing it any different either.”

Chiefs president Mark Donovan defends his decisions, saying it’s impossible to all agree. However, he is open-minded to more modifications in the future.

“You are going to have opinions on all sides on what we should and shouldn’t do. We’re going to continue to have those discussions. We’re going to continue to make changes going forward, and hopefully, changes that do what we hope, which is respect and honor Native American heritage while celebrating the fan experience.”

Alicia Norris, co-founder of the St. Petersburg-based Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality group, says that chant “conjures up images of Native Americans, indigenous people as savages.”

“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. 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.”

The “Chief” of Kansas City

Although the team is thought to be linked to Native Americans due to its name and traditions, fan Aaron Bien says this is not the case. The “Chief” originated from a mayor who helped attain the team from Dallas in 1963.

“Mayor H. Roe Bartle was a large man known as ‘The Chief’ for his many years of leadership in the Boy Scouts. Team owner Lamar Hunt reportedly named the team the Chiefs in honor of Bartle.”

In addition, a protest is planned to take place outside the stadium in Tampa during the Super Bowl on Sunday. The groups have also hired a plane to circle the area.

[H/T Daily Mail]