LOS ANGELES, CA, USA, Jan. 30, 2023 /EINPresswire.com/ — As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to star in Superbowl LVII on Sunday, February 12, Rob Grabow, writer, producer, co-director and lead actor of the independent film , The Year of the Dog, which touches on indigenous themes, asks the audience to consider the question, “Is the Kansas City Chiefs team name harmful?”
The Year of the Dog, which will be released nationwide on February 24, 2023, is the story of two strays: Matt, an alcoholic struggling to maintain sobriety, and Yup’ik, a rescue dog with an unusual athletic gift. The film takes audiences on a heartwarming journey of forgiveness, finding purpose, making connections, and ultimately healing. Grabow never intended to use his first feature to take on controversial American professional sports team names, such as the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs, along with some of their offensive fan traditions, such as the “tomahawk chop.” However, on day one, after shooting an early scene with Michael Spears, a Lakota-Sioux actor whose credits include Dances with Wolves, Reservation Dogs, and 1923, Grabow noticed Spears looking distraught and walked over to him.
Spears shared with Grabow that it was painful for him to shoot the scene because Grabow’s character was wearing a Braves hat. Spears explained that “the use of Native American team names, themed mascots, degrading gestures, and cartoonish rituals are deeply damaging to Indigenous self-esteem and dignity.” Since Dances with Wolves, when she’s not filming, Spears travels the country advocating for Indigenous issues and dedicating her life to helping support Indigenous youth. Spears clarified to Grabow that “Seeing the Braves name was humbling.”
Grabow was stunned and mortified. Having grown up in Alaska, also in rural native villages, the Atlanta Braves, one of only two professional sports teams regularly available on television, were the first professional baseball team Grabow watched. He idolized them so much that for his first personal purchase, at the age of nine, he spent his life savings on a Braves baseball cap. Then, in his original script, Grabow included the Braves hat and team name in certain scenes as part of Matt’s captivating backstory, unaware of the emotional pain it would cause not only his cast member, but also an indigenous community.
Grabow was quick to remedy the situation, immediately inviting Spears to help rewrite the scene and create new dialogue directly addressing the Braves’ hat issue. In doing so, the scene deepened in meaning and poignancy. “We are not Braves or Chiefs or Redskins. We are real people,” Spears says in the new scene. “I’m not a stupid cartoon. We don’t do the tomahawk cut…. And that makes a difference in how we feel about ourselves. This affects my self-esteem. This affects our children’s self-esteem.
“Learning to have tough conversations is essential, especially in a divided political climate,” adds Grabow. “I am proud of the way Michael and I have addressed this serious topic. I believe the scene now provides a useful roadmap for addressing controversial topics with mutual respect and understanding.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins were officially renamed the Commanders; MLB’s Cleveland Indians, as the franchise was known for over a century, are now the Guardians; hundreds of colleges and high schools across the country have revised or eliminated the use of derogatory and offensive symbols. Recognizing the anguish it has caused in their community, a high school team from Utah once known as the Bountiful Braves are now the Bountiful RedHawks. A Florida high school team once known as the Chamberlain Chiefs is now the Chamberlain Storm.
Although the question of the names of offensive sports teams like the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs is a minor subplot of the film, it leaves the audience wondering, as does a lifelong Braves fan like Grabow, “Why does this small handful of our professional teams sports still cling to names that damage the self-esteem of millions of Indigenous Americans?”
Production photos, cast and crew information, trailers and release location information are available online at www.theyearofthedogmovie.com, Instagram and Facebook.
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January 30, 2023, 1:10 pm GMT
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