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Kansas City Chiefs Ban Fans From Wearing Native American Headdresses And Face Paint

The Kansas City Chiefs are implementing new policies this season to eliminate insensitive Native American imagery at home games.
Peter Aiken
Getty Images
The Kansas City Chiefs are implementing new policies this season to eliminate insensitive Native American imagery at home games.

The Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday announced new rules for fans attending home games at Arrowhead Stadium, banning headdresses and certain types of face paint in an effort to be more sensitive to Native Americans.

Beginning this season, fans will be prohibited from wearing headdresses into the stadium, and will be asked upon arrival to remove "any face paint that is styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions."

The reigning Super Bowl champions are keeping their name but reviewing two longtime traditions, the pre-game drum ceremony and the "Arrowhead Chop."

Sometimes called the tomahawk chop, it is a one-armed gesture accompanied by a fake, stereotypical war chant, and experts say it has little basis in Native American history. That, and some fans' appropriation of headdresses and war paint, have increasingly come under fire.

Kevin Allis, CEO of the National Congress of American Indians, told NPR member station KCUR earlier this year that practices like chopping and chanting demean Native Americans and wrongly portray them as being homogenous and mythical.

"When you see this on TV or in person, this distortion in kind of dehumanizing imagery has lasting negative impacts for us," Allis said.

The Chiefs have worked with Native groups for several years to educate fans and discourage them from dressing up.

"As an organization, our goal was to gain a better understanding of the issues facing American Indian communities in our region and explore opportunities to both raise awareness of American Indian cultures and celebrate the rich traditions of tribes with a historic connection to the Kansas City area," they wrote.

That dialogue, which began in 2014, helped guide the team's American Indian Heritage Month Games, as well as the ceremonial "Blessing of the Drum and the Four Directions of Arrowhead Stadium."

The team also said it recently began consulting with a national organization that works on issues affecting American Indian people and tribes, a process that informed its latest policy changes.

The team had been under increasing pressure to take action after Washington's NFL franchiseremoved its longtime team name last month.

Thursday's announcement leaves the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks and the MLB's Atlanta Braves as the remaining pro-level teams with Native American mascots, names or imagery that have not made any changes.

In addition to the new measures, the Chiefs plan to continue existing in-person traditions like the Blessing of the Drum and the American Indian Heritage Month Game this season, in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines set by the league and the city.

The team recently finalized plans to welcome spectators back to Arrowhead Stadium, at 22% capacity and with other safety protocols.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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