KANSAS CITY, MO. - The Kansas City Chiefs are getting ready to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Super Bowl Sunday, which is getting closer and closer. During the big game, the Chiefs will wear white uniforms with a logo that has been up for debate for years: an arrowhead whose surface bears the initials "KC." The name, logo, and other aspects of the team continue to be the subject of criticism despite efforts to address the concerns of Native activists.
Native activists have been pleading with the team for decades to eliminate the arrowhead and the name "Chiefs," which are examples of stereotyping and cultural appropriation. In response, the team has implemented several changes, including the establishment of a working group of local Native people to provide guidance and the removal of fans of fake headdresses and warpaint with Native themes.
On the other hand, Indigenous people have reported that fans continue to enter Arrowhead Stadium wearing offensive headdresses and war paint and using the same chant taken from old Hollywood Western films. The activists want the team to truly respect Native culture and stop all forms of cultural appropriation.
According to South Dakota actor Michael Spears, tribes never agreed to use Native imagery for mascots and logos.
People don't want to get to know us because of these silly pictures," he said. "People believe that these mascots and logos are honoring us, even though they are mocking us."
When the team moved from Dallas to Kansas City in 1963, it decided to go by the name "Chiefs." The name honors Mayor H. Roe Bartle, who invited the team to move to the city, according to the team's website. The Tribe Mic-O-Say, which adopted Native motifs and names, was established by Bartle, an executive for the Boy Scouts. The team's name was derived from Bartle's nickname, "Chief Lone Bear."
In 1961, cartoonist Bob Taylor designed the team's first logo, which featured a cowboy superimposed over the state of Texas with a football in one hand and a six-shooter in the other. In 1972, Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs' founder and first owner created the current logo, a stylized arrowhead with the letters "KC" in the center. Hunt was inspired by the logo of the San Francisco 49ers and wrote the initial version of the logo on a napkin.
The Chiefs have a long history of cultural appropriation, including the "arrowhead chop," a chant in the style of a Hollywood Western, the use of a sizeable powwow-style drum at the start of home games, fans dressed in war paint, and fake headdresses. Warpaint the horse, the team's mascot, was even its own.
The Chiefs have attempted to address Native activist concerns in recent years. In 2020, Native-themed warpaint and headdresses could not be worn in the stadium, and the team said it would look into other bad practices like the "Arrowhead chop." Since the team features Native people playing the drum, which is still in use, the Native advisory group also considered the name "Chiefs," and they concluded that it was appropriate. Native activists, on the other hand, believe that more must be done to respect their culture truly.
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