This week, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that the NFL franchise would no longer showcase a horse mascot named “Warpaint” galloping around the field on game days.
“We feel like it’s time to retire Warpaint,” said Chiefs president Mark Donovan at training camp on Monday. “A lot of reasons for that, but we feel like it’s the right thing to do. Warpaint won’t be running at Arrowhead (Stadium) anymore.”
The move came three days after the Major League Baseball team in Cleveland changed its name from the Indians to the Guardians.
— Rob Collins (@RCFOX4KC) July 26, 2021
Donovan said the Chiefs have no plans to change their name, but would continue collaborating with “a really good American Indian working group that provides us real guidance and feedback and perspective on this issue.”
“We’re going to continue to create opportunities to educate, create awareness and work exactly as we have over the past eight years now with the working group,” Donovan said.
Donovan has previously explained that the Chiefs convened the meetings to “honor, educate and create awareness of American Indian culture for our fans,” according to The Kansas City Star.
More details from The Star:
In policies that derived from those conversations — which remain ongoing — the Chiefs announced ahead of the 2020 season that they would bar fans from entering the stadium wearing headdresses or with faces painted in a way that depicts American Indian culture.
In 2014, also a product of discussions with the working group, the Chiefs began inviting Native Americans onto the field for the blessing of a drum, on which a former player or other luminary bangs a mallet to start The Chop before each home game…
Members of the working group that meets with the Chiefs have said they take no issue with the name itself, which is not a racial slur. The Chiefs also do not have a logo with the head of a Native American, like the Washington Redskins once used.
The Warpaint tradition began nearly sixty years ago when the team played at Municipal Stadium, which was also home to the Kansas City Athletics baseball team at the time.
— Alan Shope (@AlanKMBC) July 27, 2021
The Star reported, “A Native American named Bob Johnson used to ride Warpaint before games…dressed in a war bonnet, with warpaint on his face.”
“I started in 1963, and I went just about 20 years as the only rider,” Johnson told FOX4 during an interview last year. “I wore out three horses.”
According to FOX4, Johnson said it was Chiefs late owner Lamar Hunt “who came up with the idea of an Indian, complete with headdress, riding around after every touchdown.”
The custom continued until 1989 when new blood in the front office decided to replace Warpaint with a mascot called KC Wolf. Warpaint returned twenty years later, in 2009, for the franchise’s 50th anniversary. But when the Chiefs re-introduced Warpaint, the horse was ridden by a cheerleader instead of a man donning a traditional Native American headdress.
The Chiefs appear to have scrubbed a page dedicated to Warpaint from the team’s official website.
IllumiNative is a Native American-led nonprofit that says it “stands with the Black Lives Matter movement to change the institutions of power that drive systemic racism.” The group has called on the Chiefs organization “to cease their use of racialized Native American branding by eliminating all imagery of or evocative of Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality from their team franchise by changing their name including the logo.”
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