The Problem With The Kansas City Chiefs

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will go head-to-head in Super Bowl LIV—aka, 54—held at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The half-time show will feature Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and Demi Lovato will perform The Star-Spangled Banner prior to the start of the game. Despite all the buzz surrounding this event—a tradition well-woven into American culture—my family will absolutely not be watching.

All four of my children were born in Kansas City, Missouri, and of course, many of our friends and family there are over-the-moon excited for Sunday’s game. After all, the Chiefs haven’t played in the Super Bowl in 50 years. While some of our nearest-and-dearest are washing their jerseys and heading to the grocery store for pizzas and wings, we will have a typical Sunday, which for us is morning church, followed by PJs, snacks, and movies.

Watching the Super Bowl isn’t just unappealing; to me, it just feels wrong—subscribing to something we are adamantly opposed to. It isn’t the game, the celebration, the apparel, or the amazing food that has us reeling. Rather, it’s the blatant disregard and disrespect for people of color.

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I know, our stance on not supporting the NFL isn’t popular. However, I know we aren’t alone. In 2019, Rhianna admitted that she turned down being Super Bowl LIII halftime show’s headliner. She told Vogue that she wouldn’t be a sellout or enabler. She shared, “Who gains from that? Not my people.” Rhianna was referring to the NFL snubbing Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee—protesting police brutality against black people.

The NFL’s love of bringing in the big bucks from their black players while refusing to agree and support Black Lives Matter is disgusting. But that’s not the only problem with this year’s game. The Kansas City Chief fans will be engaging in (some seriously misguided) cultural appropriation—donning face paint and feathered headdresses—which is disrespectful of Indigenous people.

Have you seen the Chiefs’ Tomahawk Chant? Fans chant in unison to the beat of a giant drum while moving their arm in a chopping motion. What the actual hell is that? I’ll tell you what it is—mockery. Were these the same “we-love-American-Indians” fighting alongside Native Americans to prevent the pipeline from being built? I didn’t think so. The KC Chiefs’ logo—a red and white arrowhead—is also problematic. I don’t get why they haven’t rebranded like the Cleveland Indians did in 2018, ditching their 71-one-year-old Chief Wahoo logo.

I admit, I have hesitated to commit to keeping the television tuned in elsewhere on Sunday. After all, the game is fun, the food is delicious, and celebrating a long-standing American tradition is enjoyable. Everyone will be talking about the champion team and awe-inspiring moments on Monday at work and school. Watching some of our favorite artists perform and laughing at the clever commercials is our favorite part of the Super Bowl. Of course, this year is especially tempting because my kids’ hometown team could possibly win—making history.

Yet if I choose to chill the beer and whip up cheese-laden appetizers, what am I teaching my children? That discrimination is OK if it’s all in good fun? That we should excuse the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick—who, like my children is a transracial adoptee—because it’s just a game on a single Sunday in February? No matter how much we adore JLo and are here for Demi Lovato’s comeback, we can’t ignore what we know to be right and true.

I know what some of you are thinking. I’m ruining the fun, and telling you things you absolutely don’t want to hear. I can see some of you plugging your ears with your fingertips and rolling your eyes—and that’s fine. It’s your choice what you do on Sunday. I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade or guilt trip you—but I am in charge of my own family. For us, we cannot wear our Black Lives Matter t-shirts on Tuesday, begin our Black History Month celebration on Saturday, and then applaud the NFL organization—and cheer for the Chiefs–on Sunday.

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By watching, my family would be hypocritical, choosing to ignore the essence of what we stand against. I just can’t bring myself to grant my family a permission slip to just-this-one-time event that exudes racism and doesn’t openly appreciate and respect black and brown people.

To anyone who argues that my family will somehow be deprived on Sunday, I want to share this. Just because something is a tradition, doesn’t make it right. “How it’s always been” isn’t an excuse for racism. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, stealing land from Indigenous people, preventing interracial marriage–all of these used to be permissible. Were any of these right? Of course not.

Entertaining racism—in any form and on any scale—isn’t OK. Sunday’s Super Bowl game isn’t an exception.

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