February 7th, 2021 Last Updated on: February 11th, 2021
Ahead of the kickoff for Super Bowl LV on Sunday, a local group staged a protest at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium to urge the team to ditch the Kansas City Chiefs mascot out of respect for Native Americans.
The St. Petersburg-based Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality, or FIREE, gathered at the stadium at 4 p.m. E.S.T. The details were released shortly before the game on a Facebook page the group created for the event, which is called “WHERE IS THE HONOR?”
“As we move through the 21st century it is time America began to respect the Indigenous Peoples. No other group of human beings suffers the weekly indignity of both racial and spiritual stereotypes trivializing and degrading their culture in a circus-like atmosphere. No other groups are racially trivialized into a mascot,” the group said.
Indigenous people see their culture and spirituality appropriated and imitated by fans who wear headdresses and war paint and swing their arms in an “arrowhead chop.”
Alicia Norris, the group’s co-founder, told the Associated Press that the chop is “extremely disrespectful” and equates Native Americans to “savages.”
“We ask all Human Beings to recognize that American Indians are Human Beings, not sports team mascots for America’s fun and games,” she said.
The use of Native American names, mascots, logos, and imagery in American sports is nothing new. It has perpetuated a Hollywood portrayal of Native American culture, allowing teams and their fans to use songs, ceremonies, tribal political organization, clothing, and symbolism to create a pseudo-Native culture around their non-Native organizations.
Some students at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, were among those who called for the organization to make some changes to the Chiefs' mascot before the 2020 season started.
“Using the mascot and having this fan base 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. “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.”
According to the National Congress of American Indians, the intolerance and harm promoted by the Chiefs and other “Indian” sports mascots, logos or symbols, has very real consequences for Native people.
The Chiefs' mascot, logo, and imagery figures to be a source of controversy, well beyond the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season.
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