With Dan Synder and Washington changing their team name, franchises around American sports are considering the same.
The Washington football franchise’s decision to finally cave to public pressure and likely change their team name has already established reverberations around the sports world, with MLB’s Cleveland Indians and even NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks releasing statements revealing their choice to either have a second look, or stand put.
The Kansas City Chiefs could be next. While the story of the ‘Chiefs’ team name doesn’t include much reference to Native American culture, fan exercises at games (including the Tomahawk Chop) have painted an adverse light of the organization, and even Arrowhead Stadium.
Should the Kansas City franchise change their team name?
Lamar Hunt and Kansas City didn’t initially plan on naming their team the Chiefs, per the KC Star.
“Lamar and Hank, they wanted to call it the Kansas City Texans,” longtime Chiefs executive Jack Steadman said in a 2013 interview. “So finally I convinced Lamar that it wasn’t going to work, and we decided to have a naming contest.”
The original idea from Hunt stemmed from the team originally moving from Dallas to Kansas City. Upon deciding on a renaming poll, the likes of ‘Mules’ and ‘Royals’ were the top choices, with Chiefs a distant third. The term ‘Chief’ was merely a moniker for former Kansas City mayor Roe Bartle, rather than any reference to Native American culture. In 1963, however, the Chiefs went all-in on branding the franchise as, essentially, a Native American caricature.
The team name and fan culture has taken on a life of its, becoming a staple of life at Arrowhead Stadium. The Hunts haven’t exactly dissuaded this kind of behavior, either, that some in the Native American community might find offensive.
Altering a team name doesn’t fundamentally guarantee the fan culture around the team will necessarily change. In fact, the only true way for the Chiefs to know how their sometimes offensive ideology impacts the Native American community is to meet directly using them. That, if anything, will be a start.