March 18, 2009

Chiefs named for Scout "chief"

Correspondent DMarks notes how the Kansas City Chiefs football team got its name. From Wikipedia:The Kansas City Chiefs are named in honor of "Chief" H. Roe Bartle, who earned that nickname from his position as the Chief of Tribe of Mic-O-Say. He helped bring the NFL to Kansas City during the time that he was Mayor.His comment:I wonder if it makes it any worse that the Chiefs were not named after actual Indians, but some sort of play-Indian wannabe?Comment:  Yes, I'd say that makes it worse. The Chiefs can't claim they named the team to honor real Indians. The Chiefs name is a second-degree stereotype: a stereotype of a stereotype.

Fortunately, the Chiefs don't use a stereotypical chief logo, or this would be really bad. I think the only stereotypes they use are the arrowhead logo and Arrowhead Stadium. These aren't good, since they imply Indians still live in the Stone Age, but they're relatively minor.

Of course, the image below was the Chiefs' primary logo from 1963-1971, according to one website. It shows what was going through the owner's mind when he named the team. An Indian chief as a loincloth-wearing, tomahawk-waving savage.

You can practically trace the history of the chief stereotype from this example. "Chief" Bartle got the stereotype from an old Western movie or a product label, or perhaps directly from a Wild West show. The Kansas City Chiefs got the stereotype from "Chief" Bartle. Now some guy who was a Chiefs fan as a boy is repeating the stereotype in TV commercials, cartoons, or comic books.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

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