Sports and sports fandom have a long and (mostly) honorable history, but there are some traditions that really should be left in the past. At the Kansas City Chiefs' first Super Bowl in decades, a lot of people were unhappy about one tradition in particular. Namely, these tweets about Chiefs fans' "Tomahawk Chop" chant are calling out the problematic cheer.
The 2020 Super Bowl on Feb. 2 marks the first time in 50 years that the Chiefs have made it to football's biggest night, per the Associated Press. So, it also marks the first time in five decades that the national audience has gotten a good look at (and listen to) fans' chants. The Tomahawk chop, which pairs a chant with a chopping hand motion, apparently meant to mimic an axe strike, has been criticized for racism and tokenizing Native American communities. In a statement shared with the AP, the Chiefs said the team was committed to "use [their] platform to create an awareness and understanding of Native cultures, as well as celebrate the rich traditions of multiple tribes with historic connection to our region.”
However, for a lot of sports fans, there was no sufficient rationale or excuse for the chant.
The criticism of the Chiefs' chant is part of a larger controversy over the appropriation of Native American culture — including offensive and dehumanizing stereotypes — in sports. In recent years, America has seen increasing criticism of teams like the Washington Redskins football team, the Atlanta Braves, and the Cleveland Indians baseball teams, all of which have been accused of using racist stereotypes and cartoons of Native Americans as their mascotsand namesakes. In 2018, the Cleveland Indians promised to stop using their former mascot, a caricature of a Native American man called "Chief Wahoo," but many saw it as only a small step.
Clearly, the overall controversy remains. "My people are not a cartoon. My community is not a cartoon. My heritage is not a cartoon," Vincent Schilling, associate editor of Indian Country Today, told the AP on the subject of the Chiefs' Tomahawk chop. Pride in your team is fine — but there are good, and bad, ways to do it.