Killers Of The Flower Moon star Lily Gladstone appears to have addressed the controversy surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs as she alluded to “misrepresentation” of Native American people at the Super Bowl.
Gladstone, 37, who is of Siksikaitsitapi and Nimíipuu heritage, stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s latest film about the early 1900s Osage Nation murders.
She is the first Native American actor to be nominated in the Best Actress Academy Award category at the Oscars.
In a new interview, the actor referenced the backlash surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday (11 February).
Speaking as an honouree at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Virtuosos Awards, Gladstone opened up about being the first Native American performer nominated for Best Actress, adding that the milestone was “long overdue”.
The star said that “some of the first filmmakers [and] the first film footage was shot by native people documenting our way of life”.
“But that’s a lot of history and a lot of years of exclusion or misrepresentation, and I mean Super Bowl’s tomorrow. We haven’t come that far if we look at one of the teams that’s playing,” Gladstone said, via People magazine.
The actor was likely referring to the Kansas City Chiefs, which has long faced criticisim over its name and arrowhead symbol, as well as the “tomahawk chop” gesture and chant, which Native American people and activists have said perpetuate racist stereotypes.
When the team won the Super Bowl in 2023, activists gathered at the stadium demanding a stop to the “tomahawk chop” and for the Chiefs to change its name.
The Kansas Chiefs previously said that they have worked hard in recent years to eliminate offensive imagery.
In 2020, the Chiefs banned fans from wearing headdresses and face paint, though some fans have continued to do so.
The Chiefs retired their mascot in 2021, a horse named Warpaint that would be ridden onto the field every time the team scored a touchdown.
“We’ve done more over the last seven years, I think, than any other team to raise awareness and educate ourselves,” the team’s president Mark Donovan said ahead of last year’s Super Bowl.
For her acceptance speech, Gladstone spoke in the Blackfeet language and later noted in English that her victory was a “historic” one.
“It doesn’t belong to just me. I’m holding it right now,” she said. “I’m holding it with all my beautiful sisters in the film at this table over here and my mother, Tantoo Cardinal, standing on all of your shoulders. Thank you.”