The Kansas City Chiefs took home the coveted Lombardi Trophy on February 4. While the team and fans celebrated, many Native Americans across the country raised concern over the use of seemingly “racist” chants and logos.
Chiefs Nation, known for their enthusiasm and devotedness to their team which suffered through a 50 year drought, came under fire for a chant called the “Tomahawk Chop”. Teams such as the Atlanta Braves MLB team and the Florida State Seminoles also make use of this song which represents the scalping of an enemy or someone chopping down their rival. While many Chiefs fans approve of the chant and see little to no issue, the controversy stems from the scalping of Native Americans during early colonial America.
Bailie Cook, a Leesville senior is a member of the Sappony Tribe, based out of High Plains, NC, knows first hand the kind of stereotypes that come with Native Americans. “Native American is a race and culture and just like any other race, it is unacceptable to use them as mascots. Why are Native Americans any different?” said Cook.
While Cook believes it is inappropriate to use the mascots, she thinks the use is not malicious but rather stems from a lack of information on Native Americans. The stigmas that go along with Natives revolve around the ideas of living on a reservation, wearing headdresses, and their ties to nature and the environment.
However, many Native Americans fulfill none of those stereotypes. “I don’t think people are as educated as they should be about Native Americans. I have lost count over how many times I’ve had to correct teachers on statements about Native Americans because they are flat out wrong,” said Cook.
While some of these chants and logos are done with no ill intent, tribe leaders feel it makes a character out of Natives. In a CNN article, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James R. Floyd said, “Although the Tomahawk Chop may be a game day tradition…It reduces Native Americans to a caricature and minimizes the contributions of Native peoples as equal citizens and human beings.”
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley also shared his concerns over the tomahawk chop, causing the Atlanta Braves to scrap the foam tomahawks at their NLDS game in 2019.
Instead of focusing on the savage and war like stereotypes many associate with Native Americans, Cook and her tribe hope for more important realizations by the public. “Some of the older members of my tribe (like my grandparents) experienced first hand discrimination and hate because of who they are and their heritage. They, as well as the rest of the tribe, try to put forward a message that everyone is good and equal regardless of their background,” said Cook. The Sappony tribe, as well as many others, want Native Americans to be more than a character, but rather a part of a rich and unique culture that others respect.
While many teams will continue to use Native American likenesses and symbols, it’s important to remember the people behind the character and history that comes with them.