On the same day the Washington franchise announced that its name will change, the Chiefs addressed for the first time whether its name and game-day traditions strike the proper balance between honor and misappropriation.
Team president Mark Donovan spoke at length to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star regarding the subject, recognizing that the varying opinions on the matter make it a “tough spot.” But the Chiefs don’t face the problem of a name that is a dictionary-defined slur.
“We feel like it’s very different than in the Washington situation,” Donovan told Mellinger. “There’s a lot of true equity value in the traditions and the name and the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s extremely valuable not only from an economic standpoint, but with the tradition of this team.”
The name of the team isn’t facing significant internal or external scrutiny. The tomahawk chop, however, is. But it also has plenty of people who want to keep it.
“It’s probably the part that’s had the most support as much as resistance, if that makes sense,” Donovan told Mellinger. “There hasn’t been a lot of support for, ‘We’ve got to keep headdresses.’ That’s not what we’ve heard. With the chop, we’ve heard much more, ‘Here’s the reasons it should stay,’ in support of keeping it. . . . Now, we’ve also heard it’s something that some can view as offensive. So that’s something we’ve got to look at.”
Mellinger points out that the Chiefs tried to eliminate the tomahawk chop in the ’90s, but that the decision quickly was reversed in reaction to negative feedback from fans.
Donovan didn’t mention whether the game-day tradition of banging a large war drum is under consideration, but it makes sense to explore all of the associated activities to ensure that they are not problematic.
Another thing not mentioned but that definitely needs to go is this: The habit of shouting “Chiefs” in place of the last word of the national anthem. At a time when many have become quasi-experts on what does and doesn’t constitute disrespect to the anthem, the flag, and the military, there can be no real debate that changing the lyrics to the song as some sort of rallying cry isn’t acceptable.