A Native American rights group is planning a protest Sunday to urge the Kansas City Chiefs to remove the team name and prevent fans from wearing a tomahawk in the game ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa.
Alicia Norris, co-founder of Florida Indian Rights and Environmental Equality (FIREE), is one of the people leading the rally that will take place near Raymond James Stadium, where the Chiefs will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the championship. Norris told CBS News that the use of the name and the slice is “dishonorable and disrespectful.”
“The indigenous peoples of this land have already had a mass genocide approach to their culture and way of life,” he said. “And when they dehumanize and objectify them, it just aligns itself with that extinction of who they are.”
In 1963, the team chose the name “Chiefs” in honor of former Mayor Harold Bartle, whose nickname was “The Chief” and was instrumental in bringing the team from Dallas to Kansas City. The Chiefs adopted arrowheads in their logo and named their home stadium Arrowhead Stadium.
Until last season, the team allowed fans to wear headgear and face paint at games. Many fans also erupt into “war songs” as they slash, mimicking the Native American tomahawk.
For Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center (KCIC), the Chiefs should just “rip off the band-aid” when it comes to a name change.
“If your team name inspires you to do something that people will say, ‘Hey, that’s racist,’ then maybe your team name needs to change, because that’s not the case, it’s not sustainable,” Crouser told CBS News.
“A lot of people have gotten used to those kinds of stereotypes,” he said.
The pressure on the Chiefs comes after other teams decided to ditch their Native American-themed nicknames. The Washington soccer team changed its name last summer. The Cleveland Indians announced that they are ditching their moniker and two years ago, they dropped their controversial Chief Wahoo logo.
It’s not just Native American rights groups calling for change. The Kansas City Star published an editorial this week urging the Chiefs to abandon Native American images. With millions ready to tune in to the big game, the newspaper’s editorial board had a message for people unfamiliar with the Chiefs’ traditions.
“To those fans, a message: many Kansans will cringe with you when viewers make the cut,” they wrote. “We accept the team’s success on the field, but we don’t think a corrosive chant has much to do with it. It’s not fair to ask groups offended by these symbols to wait even longer for change.”
The success of the Chiefs, who play in a second consecutive Super Bowl, is only drawing more attention to the controversy.
“It’s just not a good look for Kansas City,” Crouser said. “We are better than that.”
CBS News reached out to the Chiefs, but received no immediate response. Earlier, Chiefs president Mark Donovan said discussions on the issue will continue.
“You are going to have opinions from all sides about what we should and should not do,” he said. “We will continue to have that discussion. We will continue to make changes in the future and hopefully changes that do what we hope to do, which is to respect and honor Native American heritage while celebrating the fan experience.”
Some KCIC members will travel to Tampa to attend the protest, which will face increased security measures for the NFL’s main event. Crouser also took aim at the league, which publicly embraced the fight for racial justice and offered token gestures to allow the Chiefs to go ahead with the name and cut.
“It sounds so hollow when all you’ve done is put ‘End Racism’ on top of your name and your name is Chiefs and you’re still making that stupid slice,” he said.
This story was originally published by CBS News on Friday, February 5 at 12:40 p.m. ET.