Whole Nine Sports

An Examination of the Kansas City Chiefs

Trevor Finnell
Follow Trevor @ThatBankaiLife
Follow Whole Nine Sports @WholeNineSports

Normally when I’m writing about an NFL team for Whole Nine Sports, I’m taking a look at the depth and quality of said team in regard to their potential, or current success and/or failures.  While I’m never against having the chance to write for my favorite NFL team, this examination will be from a different perspective.  Since the tragedy and subsequent transformation that the nation has seen since the death of George Floyd, many topics regarding ‘racism’ and ‘injustices’ have been brought up regarding multiple topics, such as national monuments, statues, flags, and even names of multiple venues.  While it isn’t for everyone, sports tend to be the common denominator that brings people of differing viewpoints together, one game or season at a time. 

It’s rare nowadays that you’ll see those with liberal political ideologies celebrate anything with conservatives, and vice versa, but sports have the power to do this.  From difference in creeds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, just to name a few, sports can bring everyone under one umbrella.  In contrast, it can also put people on opposite sides, though the ramifications of this tends to be more cordial and friendly in nature, rather than aggressive.  With this in mind, and with how impactful sports can be in society, it’s ignorant to suggest that team names, icons, and in-the-stands antics won’t be examined in the same sense that we choose to look at other topics. 

The now Washington Football Team, who used to be the Boston Braves back in 1932 when they joined the National Football league, eventually changed their name a year later in 1933 to the now defunct term which Native American groups, led by the National Congress of American Indians, found offensive to decades.  While a new name has not yet been decided upon, it is apparent that terms, or ideals, in this fashion are (finally) no longer accepted in today’s society.  Regardless of how you, the reader, may personally feel about the name, what’s done is now done, and this will continue to be.  Personally speaking, I feel that it’s definitely for the best. 

However, one must always consider the “Domino Effect,” in which an effect that is created by one sequence of events triggers a chain events that are similar to the original.  In chaos theory, this is called the “butterfly effect,” or in more lament’s terms, could also be called the “ripple effect.”   With the events that have transpired with the Washington Football Team, other sports teams will now be examined as well.  The ones that are in the forefront of this will be Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, and the Atlanta Braves.  As for the NFL, the next examination will take place on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.  Some may point to Florida State University, and their use of the name “Seminoles” for their moniker, though it should be noted that FSU has a long and rich history in working with the Seminole Tribe in Florida.  This relationship led to the creation of the school’s symbols Chief Osceola, and Renegade, which has been used since September 16th, 1978, with the blessing (and helpful input) from the Seminole Tribe.

With the change in Washington, some may wonder what will occur with the Kansas City Chiefs.  I won’t bore you with a full history lesson of how the Chiefs got their name, as you can easily find this through any Google search, but to sum it up: in 1963, Lamar Hunt moved the then Dallas Texans to Kansas City.  While the Hunt family wanted to keep the “Texans” name, even if they were in Kansas City, they chose the name “Chiefs” after a fan contest took place, which gave tribute to Kansas City Mayor Harold Roe Bartle’s nickname which he acquired from his work with the Kansas City Boy Scouts Council, and founding of the “Tribe of Mic-O-Say,” an honor society with local ties to the Boy Scouts of America, and the Heart of American Council.  While it was mentioned that the name was not meant as a reference to Native Americans, the “Tribe of Mic-O-Say” does have ceremonies, and customs, that are loosely based on Native American traditions.

At first glance, one would wonder if the name “Chiefs” would need to be dropped.  From this standpoint, I would argue that, no, it does not.  While I don’t believe that the argument that the nickname for a former mayor holds much ground, the term “Chief” itself does.  In the simplest, and basic definition, “chief” simply means “the head of a body of persons or an organization” according to Meriam-Webster.  Police Chief, Fire Chief, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer.  These are just a few examples in which the term “chief” is used in its true meaning.  Even the military has this term, such as a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, or a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force.  Simply put, it means leader, nothing more. 

It should also be noted that since 2014, with the input and guidance from local tribes, the Chiefs have used November, which is Native American Heritage Month, as well as December, as a way to help educate their fans to “promote awareness and education about Native American culture across Chiefs Kingdom,” which was taken from their homepage online.  Since this began, the Chiefs have grown more focused on presenting the opinions and beliefs of those whom they are so closely tied to, whether intentionally, or not.  From a Drum Blessing being performed by a local Native American tribe member, and on the field, events being performed by Native Americans, the strides that the Hunt Family, and Chiefs organization, have been making in recent years to help educate their fans is admirable. 

Still, is it enough?  Even after being informed by local councils and tribes that headdresses worn by non-natives are offensive to Native Americans, the organization did ask fans to not wear them, though they have yet to fully ban fans from wearing them to games.  “Obscene or indecent clothing/signs” is listed as prohibited under the Chiefs Fan Code of Conduct as of this writing, but no examples are provided.  A search for the terms “headdress”, “native”, or “Native American” on the ‘Arrowhead Stadium A-Z Guide’ yield no results.  The ‘Tomahawk Chop,” made famous by Florida State, and used widely throughout Chiefs’ home games, is still considered by some Native American groups as offensive, though the Chiefs organization has yet to address the matter.  Some could argue that this is merely just for show, and the actual depth of how the organization is addressing these topics proves their point.

This isn’t something that is just going to fade away.  With Washington now working through their image change, (along with other much needed changes that aren’t related to Native Americans, such as sexual harassment), eyes will begin to focus solely on Kansas City.  If the Chiefs hope to keep their current image intact, and in good light, then their continued education steps and focus with local tribes must continue to grow.  Florida State has shown us how to give honor and recognition to our Native American brothers, sisters, and friends respectfully.  With a Super Bowl title now under their belt, and with QB Patrick Mahomes, who is current face of the NFL, the Chiefs organization can use this to not only better enrich themselves, but the NFL as a whole.  Instead of just using one home game to honor Native Americans, make every November home game as a way to honor them to start things off, and eventually mold it to where your organization is a full tribute to the tribes around them. 

All else fails, the Chiefs can continue to use their name, though the icon, logo, stadium name, and just about everything else associated with the team will need to change.  While Washington was wrong from the start, the Chiefs are in a position that could grow into something that this country so desperately needs today, and that is ‘unity.’  Regardless of how this plays out, there are still going to be those who feel that it’s not enough and will continue to voice their opinions against what they may choose to do.  If the Chiefs ignore the opportunity at hand to provide real growth and education, then those people are vindicated in their efforts.  The Chiefs are arguably the leaders of the NFL at this moment.  While this mainly pertains to their on-field efforts and success, this is also a chance for them to create camaraderie between fans from different walks of life.  Very few are provided an opportunity like this, and it would be foolish for the Hunt Family to waste it. 

Comments? Gripes? Should Kansas City sue Houston and reclaim the ‘Texans’ name?  Find me on Twitter! @ThatBankaiLife