Like most Kansas Citians, we wish the best of luck Sunday to the Chiefs, who will compete in their second straight Super Bowl.
The team won last year. We like their chances this year.
Millions of casual football fans will watch the game. Some of those viewers will be perplexed, perhaps even frustrated, by the team’s continued use of Native American imagery — the name, the arrowhead on the helmet, the troubling tomahawk chop and the crude chant that goes with it.
These gestures, and others like them, are clearly and appropriately endangered. Since the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl, the Washington Football Team dropped its offensive nickname, after resisting a change for decades.
Last December, the Cleveland Indians, a Major League Baseball team, announced plans for a new name.
Less than two weeks ago, the Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas decided inappropriate mascot names will be prohibited. Students at Shawnee Mission North and a handful of other schools will soon cheer for their teams in a different way.
“It feels historic to me,” one school board member said, and she’s right. It also feels long overdue.
The Chiefs might have joined this list. To their credit, the team made minor changes this season, and continued their dialogue with Native American groups and other interested parties about the use of imagery. But the Chiefs did not even take the important interim step of banning the offensive chop, or reconsider the team’s name.
Kansas Citians are well aware of this controversy. Most have taken positions on the name, for it or against it. We’ve implored the team several times to consider how history will judge its continued use of the imagery, and asked leadership to think again. They haven’t taken that advice.
But the Super Bowl will put the Chiefs’ decisions front and center, for tens of millions of football fans. For those fans, a message: Many Kansas Citians will cringe along with you when spectators do the chop.
We embrace the team’s on-field success, but don’t think a corrosive chant has much to do with it.
It isn’t fair to ask groups offended by these symbols to wait even longer for change.
Some day, the Chiefs will change their name. It’s inevitable. That day may be 20 years from now, or next week. But it will happen, and the team — and our region — will be better for it.