Super Bowl 2021 protest against Chiefs’ use of tomahawk chop set before game
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Super Bowl 2021 protest against Chiefs’ use of tomahawk chop set before game

The Kansas City Chiefs will feel some heat before Super Bowl LV’s kickoff.

A local group is planning to hold a protest outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., against the use of the tomahawk chop and other Native American imagery.

The Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality group, which is based in St. Petersburg, will run the protest near the stadium, holding signs and singing. Alicia Norris, the group’s co-founder, told the Associated Press that the chop is “extremely disrespectful” and equates Native Americans to “savages.”

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“Now the team wants to backtrack and say we are being culturally appropriate and we are being respectful of indigenous people by saying no headdresses,” Norris said. “And that is a good start, but the fans are still operating as if it is an indigenous-type atmosphere because you are still called the Chiefs. And you can still do this movement that looks like a tomahawk chop, but we are going to call it a drum beat instead. It is kind of silly. Just change it.”

The Kansas City Chiefs have since barred headdresses and war paint amid the nationwide push for racial justice, but its effort to make its popular “war chant” more palatable is getting a fresh round of scrutiny from Native American groups as the team prepares to make its second straight Super Bowl appearance. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

The issue came up again over the summer after the Washington Football Team dropped the “Redskins” moniker amid racial tension across the U.S.

The Chiefs banned face paint and headdresses from its stadium. The team also made an alteration to the chop, with cheerleaders using a closed fist instead of an open palm to signal beating the drum.

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“You are going to have opinions on all sides on what we should and shouldn’t do,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said. “We’re going to continue to have those discussions. We’re going to continue to make changes going forward, and hopefully, changes that do what we hope, which is respect and honor Native American heritage while celebrating the fan experience.”

Gaylene Crouser, the executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, dismissed the tweak.

FILE – In this Nov. 28, 2010, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs fans hold a sign that reads “TomaHAWK Chop,” during an NFL football game between the Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

“They think that that somehow helps, and they are still playing that ridiculous Hollywood Indian song, which is such a stereotypical Indian song from like old cowboy movies or something. I don’t know how they feel that that made any difference at all,” she said. “And it’s not like their fans are doing it any different either.”

Some fans have supported the use of the tomahawk chop.

Kile Chaney, a 42-year-old stonemason from Missouri, told the AP that he sees it as a “rally cry.”

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“Just to hear all the fans doing the tomahawk chop and hear it echo through the corridors, it is a beautiful noise that we make here,” he added.

Students at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., were among those who called for the Chiefs to make some changes before the 2020 season started.

“Using this mascot and having this fan base of predominantly White people wearing face paint and headdresses and doing the tomahawk chop, and it energizes them and gives them this sense of power, and then thinking there is nothing wrong with doing that is just mind-boggling to me,” said former student government president William Wilkinson, who is Navajo, Cherokee, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.

He added that the team name must also change eventually.

“It dehumanizes us and gives us Native Americans this picture of being this savage beast that is hungry for fighting when in real life we are nothing like that,” the 22-year-old said.

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The Cleveland Indians became the latest pro sports team to announce they will be changing the team’s nickname. But the alteration isn’t expected to happen this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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