Deadspin has removed all photographs and any identifying information of a young boy from an article that originally accused him of racism, following threats of legal action from his parents.
The article, written by senior writer Carron Phillips, initially accused nine-year-old Holden Armenta of wearing blackface and mocking Native Americans by wearing a traditional headdress to a Kansas City Chiefs game. The piece, published on November 27, was originally titled, “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress.”
The outlet updated the piece on Thursday, changing the headline and removing a misleading photograph that showed only half of the boy’s face, with the other half painted red.
“Unfortunately the article drew attention to the fan, though our intended focus was on the NFL and its checkered history on race, an issue which our writer has covered extensively for Deadspin,” read an editor’s note which was appended to the updated article.
“Three years ago, the Chiefs banned fans from wearing headdresses in Arrowhead Stadium, as well as face painting that ‘appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions.’ The story’s intended focus was the NFL and its failure to extend those rules to the entire league.
“We regret any suggestion that we were attacking the fan. To that end, our story was updated on Dec. 7 to remove any photos, tweets, links, or otherwise identifying information about the fan. We have also revised the headline to better reflect the substance of the story,” the note added.
Clare Locke LLP, representing Armenta’s parents, demanded a retraction of the story and an apology to avoid legal repercussions. Armenta wore a headdress that had been commonly worn at games before 2020 when the Chiefs banned them from being worn at the stadium after extensive input from Native American tribes. The headdress resembles the logo from the 60s and early 70s, which depicted a Native American wearing a headdress and holding a hatchet. The boy also painted each side of his face with the team colors, red and black.
Phillips initially doubled down on his accusations against the boy, arguing that the red paint he failed to mention in his piece actually made the boy’s appearance more offensive.
“For the idiots in my mentions who are treating this as some harmless act because the other side of his face was painted red, I could make the argument it makes it even worse,” he stated in a now-deleted tweet.
The boy’s mother revealed on Facebook that her son is Native American. His grandfather, Raul Armenta, is a business committee member at the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians who throughout his childhood visited his grandparents and other relatives who lived on the Native American reservation.
Phillips has previously made similar accusations against notable celebrities and sports leagues. He accused the National Football League of racism for planning to hold its 2024 Pro Bowl in a state governed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he claimed wants to restore the “antebellum South.” He also accused Michael Lewis, the author of “The Blind Side,” of having a “slave owner’s mentality” for writing about the white family who adopted former NFL player Michael Oher.
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