Fact Check: Is Holden Armenta a Native American? Chiefs fan's background explored amid blackface controversy
Holden Armenta gained the national spotlight after CBS zoomed in on him during the Week 12 Kansas City Chiefs-Las Vegas Raiders game coverage. The cameras caught him wearing a Native American headdress with black paint on one side of his face.
Deadspin writer Carron J. Phillips took offense to this image by writing a related article that called out the Chiefs and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Unfortunately, as proven by the camera that captured him, that angle provided only a portion of the story.
Holden Armenta is a Native American Chiefs fan not wearing blackface
Holden Armenta's mother, Shannon, revealed that her son is Native American while quoting the controversial Deadspin article. She posted on her Facebook account:
"This has nothing to do with the NFL. Also, CBS showed him multiple times, and this is the photo people chose to blast to create division. He is Native American - just stop already."
As also clarified via X's Community Notes, the young player didn't have just black paint on his face. Instead, it was black on one side and red on the other, depicting the Chiefs' colors.
The social media platform added context under Deadspin's related tweet on Phillips' article by explaining:
“This fan’s face is painted red & black to support the Kansas City Chiefs. Facepaint is a popular practice at NFL games and is not related to blackface.”
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk called Deadspin's article a "deception." Here are some photos posted by Shannon Armenta, proving that he had black and red on his face.
Meanwhile, Trending Politics co-owner Collin Rugg tweeted a video of Armenta doing the allegedly offensive tomahawk chop. However, even Black players on the Kansas City Chiefs roster imitated him.
NFL fans criticized CBS for putting the kid in a bad light. If it's established that he wasn't wearing full blackface, Armenta can be held liable for wearing a Native American headdress. However, his lineage gives him the right to do so because his grandfather, Raul Armenta, is a Business Committee Member of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
The federal government has officially recognized the Santa Ynez Reservation in Santa Barbara County since December 1901. It's the only federally recognized Chumash tribe in the United States and has its tribal constitution.
With these facts established, Phillips, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, according to his social media bio, received much backlash for the inaccurate reporting. A scan of Phillips' X account reveals that he has deleted any tweet related to that Deadspin article or any mention of Holden Armenta.
Will Holden Armenta's family consider legal action against Deadspin and Phillips?
It's uncertain if this unfortunate saga will end up in smoke or if the Armenta family will pursue a case against the writer and the online publication.
However, Heavy.com's Jessica McBride reported that Holden Armenta's mother referred them to her husband, who then communicated with their lawyer before speaking to the media.
However, beyond the legal considerations, Armenta's presence might have energized the Chiefs to a 31-17 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. That improved them to 8-3 on the seson, remaining as the AFC West leaders and second-seed in the AFC playoff picture, behind the Baltimore Ravens.