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Chiefs ban headdresses, Native American-themed face paint at Arrowhead Stadium

Ryan Young
·3 min read
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The Kansas City Chiefs will no longer allow fans to wear headdresses or Native American-themed face paint at their home games, the team announced Thursday.

The decision comes more than a month after the Washington Football Team ditched it’s long-held racist nickname, something that quickly sparked a larger conversation about the issue across the sports world.

“In 2014, we began a dialogue with a group of local leaders from diverse American Indian backgrounds and experiences,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “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.

“These meaningful conversations with the American Indian Community Working Group helped us educate ourselves and our fans, and our partnership with these leaders has helped guide our American Indian Heritage Month Games, as well as the ceremonial Blessing of the Drum and the Four Directions of Arrowhead Stadium. Our discussions also led us to discourage fans from wearing ceremonial headdresses and American Indian-themed face paint in our stadium. We are grateful to the members of the working group for their counsel and collaboration, and we look forward to continuing our partnership.”

Chiefs reviewing ‘Arrowhead Chop,’ ‘Drum Deck’

The Chiefs announced several other new policy changes on Thursday.

Other than banning both headdresses and Native American-themed face paint, the team is also currently “engaged in a thorough review process of the Arrowhead Chop,” their version of the once-popular Tomahawk chop seen frequently at sporting events across the country — perhaps most notably with the Atlanta Braves and Florida State. The Braves are also reviewing the chant, something that has frequently been criticized by native groups in recent years.

“I think [the chant is] a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee nation, said last year. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that.”

The Chiefs are also looking at a way to alter their Drum Deck, the large drum located in the upper deck of Arrowhead stadium frequently hit by celebrities and other special guests as a pregame ritual.

The goal, the team said, is to find a way that “maintains a unifying effect between our fans and our players but better represents the spiritual significance of the drum in American Indian cultures.”

“We are grateful for the meaningful conversations we have had with all of these American Indian leaders,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “It is important that we continue the dialogue on these significant topics, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future.”

Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City
The Chiefs will no longer allow fans to wear headdresses or Native American-themed face paint inside Arrowhead Stadium. (AP/Reed Hoffmann, File)

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