Longtime Hollywood actor Michael Spears has joined a group of Native American activists to call on the Kansas City Chiefs to change their name as the team prepares to play in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Spears, whose credits range from 1990’s “Dances With Wolves” to the FX series “Reservation Dogs” and the Paramount+ hits “1923” and “1883,” said people would need to swallow some hard truths to end the cultural appropriation linked to the Chiefs’ moniker use.
“People think they’re honoring us with these mascots and logos, but they’re mocking us,” Spears said in a report by The Arizona Republic.
Spears, speaking from his home in Montana to the Phoenix-based outlet, said the solution is rooted in a transparent approach.
“Communicate to each other,” said Spears, a member of the Lakota Lower Brulė Sioux Tribe. “Ask what would bring honor to us.”
The Chiefs have made concessions in recent years on how they incorporate Native American themes into their team, including forbidding traditional face paints and head dresses at their games. They also brought in a Native American advisory committee. But they have stopped short in taking the same action Cleveland’s MLB team did in 2021, when it changed its name from the Indians to the Guardians.
Spears joined other Native American activists who talked to The Arizona Republic and urged the Chiefs’ name change.
Gaylene Crouser, the executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is leading a group traveling to Phoenix to protest the Chiefs.
“The team has worked hard to put out the illusion that they work with tribes because they do work with a few tribal members,” Crouser said. “But they weren’t interested in talking to us because they knew what we would have to say.”
To illustrate how efforts can change people’s perceptions, Spears recalled a moment while working on the 2023 film “The Year of the Dog,” when he persuaded a producer to change a scene in which a non-Native man was to be featured wearing an Atlanta Braves cap.
“We’re real people…I’m not a goofy cartoon,” Spears said of the film’s characters. “We don’t do the ‘tomahawk chop’…And that makes a difference in how we feel about ourselves.”