Tag Archives: Super Bowl

Super Bowl Once Again Puts the Use of Native American Mascots in the Global Spotlight

Leading up to this year’s Super Bowl match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs a lot of attention has been placed on the match-up between quarterbacks Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. Barring a late scratch by one of the quarterbacks due to injury, this will mark the first time that two black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl.

Having two black quarterbacks starting in a Super Bowl is of course an important milestone. Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl in 1988. Williams was named Super Bowl MVP after leading his team to a decisive victory in Super Bowl XXII. Including Williams, seven black quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl, with three of the seven leading their team to victory.

With a week of media coverage leading up to the game, the head-to-head battle between Hurts and Mahomes is the type of human interest story that reporters love to cover. Another story gaining traction ahead of the game is the fact that Travis Kelce suiting up for the Chiefs and Jason Kelce playing for the Eagles will mark the first time two brothers have played for different teams in the Super Bowl.

I had the opportunity to cover Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers and found trying to find new things to write about each day leading up to the game to be quite exhausting. By the time I finished my “Postcards from the Bowl” series, I was worn out from covering the Super Bowl long before the time kickoff rolled around.

As a Super Bowl media week veteran, I can attest that it can be an exhausting week trying to cover all of the stories leading up to the game. Unfortunately, sometimes the stories most in need of coverage are ignored in favor of the shiny things that support the

My exhaustion was likely not helped by the fact that after spending eight hours at the Super Bowl experience each day, I still had to do my day job of laying out a sports section and covering high school games.

I say all of this to point out that there is a lot of stuff that gets covered leading up to a Super Bowl. One could argue that there is information overload for the reporters covering the game who are working hard between all of the various social events and parties.

Even the pregame show on the day of the Super Bowl is “super-sized” to the point that the game can often be seen as an afterthought, or merely something to fill the time between the commercials and halftime show.

One thing that should not be relegated to the noise, or considered an afterthought, involves Kansas City’s use of Native American names, image and likeness.

In recent years, a slate of professional sports teams have changed names tied to Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. This includes an MLB team in Cleveland, a Canadian Football League team in Edmonton, and an NFL team in Washington, D.C.

After years of protests, efforts to force a name change in Washington D.C. bore fruit. Similar efforts in Kansas City have failed to gain the same level of results. Protestors are expected to continue their call for change outside the Super Bowl this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo R. Anderson

While I think that Commanders is a lame name, it does impact my memories of supporting the team. It does however impact my willingness to buy new team merch. After all, what exactly are they commanding?

While I wish that they had picked a better name, I understand why the name was changed.

While earning my M.S. in Sport Management, I explored the subject of Native American mascots and iconography used by sports teams extensively. Team names like Braves, Chiefs, Indians, Eskimos, and Redskins have long been considered offensive to some indigenous people.

The origin of the team names in many cases were first set up in the early parts of the 20th Century as part of imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race. In both instances, the belief being that the best way to honor the nostalgia of the vanquished was to use names and imagery to remind people of them.

Of course, the problem with hanging one’s nickname hat on imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race, is that the Native American populations are very much still among us. They remain despite efforts throughout American history to wipe them out, or relegate them to out of sight, and out of mind reservations.

So, the use of a population as a mascot becomes problematic when one tries to adhere to the “all men (and women) are created equal” wording of the founding fathers.

Which brings us back full circle to this year’s Super Bowl.

Native American activists who have been urging the team to retire the name “Chiefs,” the arrowhead and the rest of an accumulated 60-plus years of cultural appropriation and stereotyping plan to protest the Chiefs ahead of the game in Phoenix, Arizona.

Although they use Native American iconography, the origin of the Kansas City name is a little different from some of the other sports teams who use Native American terms. The Chiefs were named after former Kansas City Mayor H. Roe “Chief” Bartle as a reward for his efforts to convince Lamar Hunt to move the Dallas Texans, to Kansas City in 1963.

Much like the Washington team before them, the Chiefs have aligned themselves with a group of Native Americans who do not find the name offensive, while mostly ignoring those who do. In defending their name and use of Native American iconography, the Chiefs have an entire website dedicated to all of the ways that they are including Native Americans in their game day festivities.

Of course, as the saga in Washington D.C. showed, Native American culture is not a monolith. Gaining buy-in from one group does not mean that every Native American agrees that the continued use of their imagery is not offensive.

It is likely that when the Chiefs take the field in their third Super Bowl in four years, the Kansas City fans in the stands, and around the globe will do the “tomahawk chop” and “war cry” whenever Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs do something good. There will likely even be some fans wearing headdresses and war paint at the game despite the Kansas City Chiefs barring that practice from their home stadium a few years back.

As was the case with me so many years ago, a majority of fans may be unaware that what they are doing is offensive to Native American groups. Such is the sneaky embrace of cultural appropriation.

The Atlanta Braves are among a dwindling number of professional sports teams that have shown little interest in changing their nickname and use of images and chants that some Native American groups find offensive.
Photo R. Anderson

Unless something changes, the Chiefs will continue to blaze an increasingly less crowded trail with the Atlanta Braves and Florida State Seminoles clinging on to their mascots and customs for the benefit of their fans, and the detriment of indigenous people who have suffered great injustice throughout the history of the great experiment in democracy known as the United States of America.

The purpose of this column is not to make people feel guilty for mistakes and actions taken in the past. The past is the past. As has been said many times, one most learn from the mistakes of history in order to ensure that they are not repeated in the future. Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It is certainly a cause for celebration that there are two black quarterbacks taking the field in the Super Bowl this year. However, as the protests by Native Americans outside the stadium show, there is still a long way to go until all groups can enjoy the game and feel equally recognized.

As the NFL looks to expand their global footprint, it would be wise for them to look at how they treat Native Americans and other groups domestically before spreading their brand further on the international stage.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready to watch some commercials disguised as a football game.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

With Football Done, I’m Ready for Some Baseball

The National Football League season came to a conclusion Sunday with the playing of the Super Bowl where the Seattle Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots, who depending on one’s opinion, are either led by the greatest duo to ever exist on the gridiron in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, or are led be the evil emperor and Darth Vader who commute to their games in a death star and treat the NFL rule book like a collection of suggestions.

The path to Super Bowl glory for the Patriots was not without controversy. There were allegations that the Patriots cheated their way into the big game by having their balls a tad bit softer then the rules allowed.

However, regardless of how soft or hard the balls in Tom Brady’s hands were, the fact remains for the next year, like it or not, the New England Patriots get to call themselves World Champions.

Regarding those soft balls used during the first half of the AFC Championship game, the NFL’s investigation into just who let the air out is still underway.

While the tin foil hat society can continue debating whether there was one lone deflator, or a grassy knoll full of deflators, in the bigger picture, the end of football season means that the arrival of the baseball season is that much closer.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football. However, after six months of Omaha, hut, hut, I am beyond ready for the sights and sounds of the National Pastime to arrive.

I think if the powers that be of the NFL were honest with themselves, they would also admit that they are ready for another sport to take the spotlight for a while so that the league can recover from a season where players were often making headlines more for their off field activities than anything they did on the field.

That is not to say that baseball players do not have off field problems as well. In fact, Major League Baseball is preparing for the return of Alex Rodriguez after a one and a half season suspension for getting caught putting things in his body that are not allowed to be inside the bodies of Major League Baseball players.

While MLB prepares for the headaches of A Rod drama, few can argue that the past season was one of the biggest public relations headaches for the NFL in its history.

Hopefully, the NFL can use the off season to better define policies and procedures to provide clear cut, consistent responses across the board when issues arise; instead of the shoot from the hip inconsistent approach that took center stage this year.

Speaking of inconsistent approaches, the advertisements in this year’s Super Bowl were all over the map with very few hitting the mark of viral success for making viewers laugh or cry for the right reasons.

It is almost like all of the other ad agencies decided that the beer company that is famous for spots featuring horses and golden retrievers was going to win the hearts of viewers regardless of what they did. So, they just phoned it in when it came to their ads.

Another item hurting companies when it comes to Super Bowl success, is the early release of their ads on the internet.

While one used to have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to see the ads at great peril to their bladders, now many ads are released days and weeks before the big game. This early release means that any impact of the ad often already occurs before the game.

While this approach may lead to fewer full bladders during the commercial breaks, it does take a little out of the Super Bowl experience by changing the way the game is watched for many.

The commercials I enjoyed the most were the ones I did not have prior knowledge of. There is just something about seeing a Super Bowl commercial for the first time during the Super Bowl as opposed to seeing an ad that has already been trending for a week before the game.

Hopefully marketers will realize that the best ads are the ones that are a surprise to the viewer, and the trend of premature commercial release will be reversed faster than a bad call by a referee.

Ad agencies are now on the clock and have a whole year to figure out their ads for the next big game.

And with Super Bowl 50 coming next February, I am hoping for some truly epic commercials, as well as a game featuring some good teams with properly inflated balls and no Death Stars parked in the employee lot.

Whoever gets selected as the halftime performer also has a tough act to follow as by all accounts Katy Perry and her dancing sharks and roaring cat set the bar very high for all who come after her.

And while a pitcher shaking off a sign from his catcher does not provide the same sound bites as a quarterback calling an audible at the line, who knows, maybe one of the umpires will add “Omaha, you’re out” to his strike out call to help those fans who are going through football withdrawal until the start of organized team activities and spring games in a couple of months.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a baseball season to get ready for.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson