Kaizer Chiefs (part 1)

For the second week, we will be looking at sports teams and their use of native american imagery. Although later posts will cover teams more widely known in the USA, first we will be looking at the Kaizer Chiefs F.C. from South Africa, in order to attempt to see how foreign countries address the controversy surrounding the use of native american imagery or if they even think about it at all.



According to their website, this team was formed by a former player of the Atlanta Hawks, a short lived American team from the sixties and seventies. He combined his name, Kaizer Motaung, with the name of his former team and went as far as more or less just using the american team’s logo. complete with stereotypical feather headdress.


The american team was only active for a few years, largely due to the instability of soccer teams during this time. The only mentions of controversy in regards to it that i can find, are just mentions in regards to an Atlanta team potentially taking on the name, with comments pointing out that the name is not appropriate.  This may be due to more popular teams often being the focus of pointing out inappropriate use of native american imagery. A football team is going to get a lot more complaints than a minor team from an unpopular, in the U.S. at least,  sport.

Returning to the South African team, they seem to mostly ignore the native influence on their name, their website mostly focuses on their founder in their history, seeming to use the name chiefs not because of it’s Native American origin, but because it was the name of the team their founder played on.

In addition, their name seems to remind fan’s more of African tribal chiefs, despite the logo being of a Native American. Their nickname, the Amakhosi, is a Zulu word for chiefs, suggesting that they see their name as a reference to local chiefs. They also use a form of local tradition referred to as Muti , which they may see as a tribute to the indigenous nature of their name, but it seems to be more of a general widespread thing in South African soccer . Overall they seem to mostly ignore their Native American imagery, instead focusing on their founder and Native African traditions.

Although there does not seem to be any focus on their use of Native American imagery,  in my opinion it does not make it OK. The lack of attention is likely not because Native American groups approve of it, but because the team is very unknown in the United States, and is therefore less important to change compared to other teams, that are more unknown, and have much more use of Native American imagery.

Over the rest of the week we will look at some teams that have drawn many more complaints and that have much more blatant use of Native American imagery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *