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Native groups protest outside of Chiefs game, call team's American Indian Heritage Month efforts 'lip service'

Chiefs American Indian Heritage Month and Salute to Service Game
Posted at 9:10 PM, Nov 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-21 11:55:11-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs honored Native American history and culture during the American Indian Heritage Month and Salute to Service game on Monday night.

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Outside of the gates, advocacy groups Not in our Honor and the Kansas City Indian Center say the organization can do more.

The Chiefs retired its mascot, a horse named "Warpaint," in 2021. The team also banned headdresses and American-Indian themed face paint. They've also discouraged the tomahawk chop.

However, while advocates stood in the cold on Monday night outside of GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, they continued their calls for change.

Some indigenous groups have been protesting for years because they believe the franchise's name, among other practices, still cause division.

Chiefs American Indian Heritage Month and Salute to Service game
"Not in our Honor" and the Kansas City Indian Center protested outside of Monday night's game between the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Chiefs have stated the team's origination of the name isn't affiliated with American Indian culture, but it's a nod to H. Roe Bartle, the former mayor of Kansas City in the 1960s.

The team did admit that in the past, marketing used Native American culture in a "racially insensitive fashion."

Advocates believe there are still stereotypes used that disrespect their culture, and it could be remedied by changing the name so responsibility does not have to fall on fans.

"Change the name and rebrand to something that isn’t a race of human beings; something that everyone of every race could get behind," said Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center.

Jason Swartley, who works at the Kansas City Indian Center, said he's a fan of the sport, but still wants to see change.

"A lot of us are football fans, and all cheer for other teams. It would be great if I had a home team that I could be proud of and get behind that didn't feel so wrong," Swartley said.

Advocates told KSHB 41 they think Kansas City will continue to support the team even if they aren't called the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have been partnering with the American Indian Working Group over the years for education and dialogue.

The franchise stated on their website, the working group has evaluated the team's practices and recommended changes.

However, the group did not think the franchise should change their name.

The working group could not be reached for comment. The Chiefs declined to make an official statement on the protests outside of tonight's game.