How Kansas City Landed On The Chiefs After A String Of Rejected Names

In February 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs were set to meet the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Would that matchup sound the same, though, if the Philadelphia Eagles were set to play the Kansas City Mules instead? That is just one of many rejected names considered for the team when the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1963 (via Sports Team History).

Drawn to Kansas City from Dallas by KC mayor Harold Roe Bartle who promised team owner Lamar Hunt a new-and-improved place to play and even better ticket sales than the team enjoyed in Texas, the full list of names considered for the relocated AFC franchise is a fascinating what-if from NFL history. Meanwhile, the story of how the team decided on the Chiefs — as well as the later controversy regarding the Native American connotations of the name and the team mascot, among other fan traditions — is an important part of the Chiefs' story.

Bartle was nicknamed the Chief

There were quite a few team names considered once it was decided the Dallas Texans would relocate to KC, as neither "Dallas" nor "Texans" could any longer apply to the team. These names included the Mules, as mentioned, but also the Stars and the Royals (via Sports Team History). So how did they decide on the Chiefs?

As CNN writes, Harold Roe Bartle, who was the mayor of Kansas City for two terms, was nicknamed "the Chief." Bartle, of course, was paramount in convincing the Texans' owner, Lamar Hunt, to move his fledgling franchise from Dallas and to set up shop in Kansas City, Missouri. When a fan contest was held to settle on the team's new moniker, the Chiefs emerged as the clear winner, according to Business Insider. As far as where Bartle's nickname came from, he was highly involved in the Boy Scouts organization and had a key role in developing the Boy Scouts of America's Tribe of Mic-O-Say.

While involved in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, Bartle was known as "Chief Lone Bear," shortened to "Chief" during his two terms as KC mayor. Though Bartle was reportedly inducted into a local tribute of the Arapaho in the Kansas City area, he was not in fact Native American, based on Indian Country Times reporting. The general manager of the Chiefs in the early 1960s, Jack Steadman, told the Dallas Texans team owner, Lamar Hunt, based on that fan response, "There's just no other name we can select." Bartle, in his Boy Scouts uniform in the mid-1920s, is pictured above.

The 'Chiefs' team name has caused controversy

Since the team relocated to KC, the fact they play at Arrowhead stadium (among other iconography from Native American culture used in team celebrations and fan tradition, including a former mascot horse called Warpaint and the "tomahawk chop") has drawn controversy as Native American culture in pro sports has been examined, as CNN writes. The discussion about Native American imagery in pro sports has led some teams like the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders) and the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) to change their names. 

The Chiefs, along with MLB's Atlanta Braves, have held fast to their tradition, though. Per Fansided, in 2020, the Chiefs organization banned headdresses and other overt displays of Native American culture at their home games, claiming the indigenous representation that continues as part of the Chiefs franchise is meant to honor Native culture, instead. Despite that fact, Native coalitions such as Not in Our Honor have reportedly petitioned the franchise to completely drop all Native American imagery and to change their team name. There are no known plans to do so as of this writing.