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Kansas City Chiefs Removed Their Offensive Mascot, But Have No Plans To Change Name

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Now that Cleveland's baseball team revealed its new name, some of the spotlight has turned to Kansas City football. As KCUR's Luke Martin reports, this week, the Chiefs retired a well-known fixture at Arrowhead Stadium.

LUKE MARTIN, BYLINE: The retirement is that of a horse named Warpaint. She's been doing victory runs after Chiefs touchdowns since 2009. But at a press conference Monday, team president Mark Donovan says those days are over. The move is part of a years-long evolution in the team's use of much criticized Native American imagery. But Donovan stresses that the evolution does not include changing the team's name.

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MARK DONOVAN: We'll continue to take the path we've taken educating ourselves, educating our fans, creating opportunities to create awareness.

MARTIN: For eight years, the team has consulted the American Indian Community Working Group, and slowly, some change has come. Last year, the team banned headdresses and Native-inspired face paint in the stadium. But the notorious tomahawk chop chant is still criticized by many. That progress is too slow for Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center.

GAYLENE CROUSER: They're just kind of, I think, trying to placate the community at this point. How much racism are we going to tolerate?

MARTIN: This isn't the first time a horse has been retired. There was no Warpaint in the late '90s and early 2000s. The National Congress of American Indians and plenty of others, including Crouser, want the Chiefs to change their name and cut out Native imagery altogether.

CROUSER: And it can't be that hard to find something that's not a stereotype of a human being.

MARTIN: As for the fans, well, they appear to be split. Joe Beckerman has been going to home games for years. Warpaint's retirement wasn't a surprise to him.

JOE BECKERMAN: Yeah, the horse could go. That was getting old anyway.

MARTIN: But Beckerman doesn't think the Chiefs need a name change, and he's not worried about adjusting to a post-Warpaint era. For at least some of those fans, Warpaint's retirement is a step in the right direction, moving away from imagery many find offensive.

For NPR News, I'm Luke Martin in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.