FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2023
O’odham Territory/Phoenix, Az: As we conclude another action to protest the Kansas City franchise and NFL’s racist cultural appropriation of Native people, we reflect upon the significant moments in this movement during Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
Az Rally was pleased to host groups Not In Our Honor and the Kansas City Indian Center at State Farm Stadium to protest the KC team. Both groups are located in the Kansas City region and deal with the team’s disrespectful behavior as well as ongoing harassment of their fan base when they protest every home game and even join other Native groups at away games. We continue to support our Native relatives on the ground and we ask that others continue to do so. You may reach these groups at https://notinourhonor.com and https://kcindiancenter.org. You may sign their petition at here or buy a t-shirt on their website. Follow the Kansas City Indian Center on Facebook and follow Rhonda LeValdo on Twitter @rhondalevaldo.
Az Rally organized a press conference on February 9, 2023 to announce the protest and for key advocates to make statements about the fight against Native cultural appropriation with the KC franchise. This took place at Cahokia and featured Native advocates, Rhonda LeValdo, Dr. James Riding In, Amanda Blackhorse, David Garcia, Leonard Rivers, and Meldon Fulwilder. Az Rally also took part in speaking at the Imagining the Indian documentary screening at the Indigenous Cultural Center at Scottsdale Community College on February 10, 2023. This documentary “examines the movement that is ending the use of Native American names, logos, and mascots in the world of sports and beyond.” Produced by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Jessica and Steve Sarowitz, Aviva Kempner, Ben West, Sam Bardley, Kevin Blackistone, Barbara Ballow, and Yancey Burns.
Az Rally hosted a protest on Super Bowl Sunday February 12, 2023 to take a stand against the use of Native cultural appropriation with the KC franchise. Protestors were met with racist and derogatory slurs, sexual harassment, mockery of our culture, verbal abuse, aggressive and posturing sports fans at the rally. Fans did not care if Native children were present. Many had to be deescalated by nearby police. Overall there were about 80-90 participants at the march and rally.
Throughout the organization of these events, it has become more and more clear that an intentional division was created in the Native community orchestrated by the NFL in order to distract from the stain of the KC team’s racist name. The NFL/Super Bowl hired Native/Indigenous artists to dance, sing, and do art work for them in an attempt to “indigenize” the Super Bowl. Those advocates who were once in support of the anti-Native mascot movement are now supporting the NFL and would not publicly decry the KC team for their racist name and mass cultural appropriation within their franchise. Further, Indigenous organizations who stand for health and wellness were pictured welcoming in the KC team, tribal leaders and politicians were pictured shaking hands with KC team executives and one politician posing in a KC jersey. We felt the absence and silence of many voices who once stood with this movement, and who our Indigenous communities look to represent our voices on a public stage.
In our experience in all these years demanding change from the NFL and other franchises that profit off of Native imagery and derogatory names, is that they will use and abuse our communities and will even use our children shamelessly for their benefit. This happened when Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder got former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to sit in box-seats with him at a game at State Farm Stadium (then known as the University of Phoenix Stadium) or when they bussed in children from the Navajo Nations’ Red Mesa High School. It appears the KC team took notes from the Washington team and are trying to buy Native support. It’s truly disheartening to see the NFL and the KC team encourage Native people to choose between their dignity and feeding their families in order to gain support for racism. Or when they give “opportunities” like attending a professional football game which many Native people may never have in their lifetime.
Native people will continue to experience stereotypes so long as the KC team continues with the use of their name and cultural appropriation. Just like the incident in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Gilbert Ortega storefront. Gilbert Ortega Jr. was filmed publicly harassing traditional Native dancers doing a promo for the Super Bowl. Ortega was using racial slurs, being sexually inappropriate, mocking Navajo people, the very same people who have made him extremely wealthy using price gouging practices. The correlation between the Ortega incident and the KC team is strong because both entities use Native people for profit.
Our protest will continue. The tireless work of advocates who have families, jobs, and other tasks that call our attention in our respective Native communities will continue. We plan to request State Farm Stadium to ban the use of headdress, redface, and the tomahawk chop in their stadium. We encourage others in your respective cities to do the same. We will have to work harder to undo the mis-representation that “indigenizing” the SB has created progress and increased visibility when in actuality it has harmed and divided our communities more than anything. We appreciate the ongoing list of Native artists in the “Native Artist Coalition to End ‘Native’ mascots,” which has supported us since its organization in 2020 by The Morning Star Institute and its President, Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee).
We encourage others out there to think before you work with the NFL. Think about the harm they’ve done to Native communities and ask yourself why they want Native representation but yet fail to address the very obvious reason why Native representation is needed, because we’re misrepresented by decades old racist teams like the KC team. Keep in mind, once the Super Bowl was over, the KC team and their fans were broadcasted live in Kansas City doing the tomahawk chop as their victory dance. It appears they have learned nothing about positive Native representation.
See links below for coverage of the events stated:
Contact: Az Rally at 602-935-9312 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: nomorenativemascots.org