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I’m boycotting the NFL, and you should too

This Sunday, I watched the Super Bowl. I’m a lifelong football fan. Like many in Western South Dakota, I routinely cheer for the Green Bay Packers. I have watched every Super Bowl in recent memory, and I’m proud to say that. This year felt different, though. This year, the team from Kansas City (whose name I will not write in this piece) was playing and eventually won. I’d seen this team and its fans’ behaviors for years, I’ve seen their mascot, their “chant” and even their drums. I’ve always been disgusted with this behavior, the same way that I was disgusted with the behavior of the team from Washington D.C. This year, though, I’ve decided to make a change. After watching this game, I’ve decided that I’m going to be boycotting all NFL activities until the team from Kansas City is no more, and I think if you care about this, you should too. 

I don’t think it takes much explaining to describe why this team is particularly problematic. The behavior of the fans, the imagery of the team and even the very name are incredibly offensive. I’ve known about how this team acts and how they perceive Native Americans of the Great Plains for most of my life. It doesn’t take much analysis of their activities to realize that there is no reason for a team to appropriate an Indian title of respect for their football team, partake in “war chants” and bang drums to realize that this isn’t OK. Until Sunday, I thought it was possible for me to be a football fan and ignore this team’s problematic behavior, but seeing the NFL and so many other people do nothing about it made me realize that boycotting the team from Kansas City isn’t enough. I’ve never gone to a game that involved this team, I’ve never bought any of their merchandise. And yet, they still exist. Even though I’ve done my best to stay away from them, their fans continue to mock American Indian culture. My action of boycotting the team from Kansas City has done nothing. After all, this team doesn’t care that they’ve made American Indians across the country mad, because their fans will still watch them when they go to the Super Bowl or play their teams during the season. Simply not buying their merchandise and not wearing their jerseys isn’t enough to send a message that this behavior is unacceptable. As long as we give views to games they play and spend money on competing teams in the NFL, we aren’t boycotting the team from Kansas City. 

I know a lot of people tuned into the Superbowl to watch Rihanna or the commercials or just to see Gronk miss. Each of these people, as much as they can claim innocence for not cheering for this team, still tuned in and gave the NFL and (indirectly) Kansas City a lot of money and their attention. From a financial perspective, there is no difference between watching the Super Bowl for Rihanna or this terrible team. Either way, Youtube, Hulu, Fox and the NFL made money off of those advertisements, too, money that will then be transferred over to the team from Kansas City for their bonus. 

This leaves an unfortunate — albeit necessary — decision: boycott the NFL. Although the NFL can nudge Kansas City to modify its behavior, it’s unlikely that it will do so. NFL teams are not isolated cultures independent of each other. There are ripple effects to any decision involving the NFL that will eventually reach every team. The NFL — in its way — is an economy. Teams trading players, going to games, selling their merchandise and the NFL providing stipends means these teams are interconnected. Our actions in the economy are not without consequence, and if you care about changing this team, you should prioritize this message over your viewership. 

This issue is rather personal for me. I’m enrolled in the Oglala Lakota Oyate, a tribe that inhabits the Great Plains. When I see Kansas City fans partake in this kind of offensive behavior, I don’t have the privilege of brushing it aside. I know that, when the fans beat their drums, appropriate headgear and disrespect American Indians,they’re talking about me and people enrolled in Tribes around the Great Plains too. I understand that this issue is probably not as personal to any of you as it is to the average Great Plains Indian, but I want you to imagine if this kind of behavior was done to you. If a team used any other person of color or its culture as a mascot, people would be up in arms and a boycott like this would be seen as controversial. American Indians are often forgotten, in part because we’re a tiny segment of the U.S. population. Indeed, the only time that many people think about American Indians is when they see us personified in sports games. If one of your only forms of representation in American media was an offensive stereotype, wouldn’t you also want to do everything possible to fix that? 

Our attention has consequences. If you believe that this team has a racist name, racist traditions and is overall terrible to the American Indian Nations around them, then why would you give money or attention to them? In the way that the NFL is set up, there is no way to watch the NFL and its games without contributing to this team. It took me years to come to this conclusion, but I can not in good conscience continue watching this dreck if it means supporting appropriation against me and other American Indians of the Plains. 

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About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

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