Washington Football Team Bans Fans From Wearing Headdresses and Face Paint

It's the latest team to prohibit Native American-inspired accoutrements.

Tailgating will return to FedEx Field in the upcoming NFL season. Unvaccinated people should wear masks, and the stadium will be cashless, the team said in a press release Wednesday. But the biggest change in policies harks back to the Washington Football Team’s old name: “Native American inspired ceremonial headdresses or face paint may no longer be worn into the stadium,” the team says.

Other teams have made similar changes. The Kansas City Chiefs banned headdresses and face paint last year, as did the Chicago Blackhawks. Before it announced it would change its name from the Indians to the Guardians at the end of this season, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team said fans who appeared wearing headdresses and face paint could be thrown out of games.

Fans of Washington’s team long appeared at games in apparel and makeup that reflected the team’s old name.

Zema “Chief Zee” Williams, easily the most famous Washington fan to dress up in this manner for games, died in 2016. The National Congress of Native Americans says that 1,870 schools in the US still use Native-inspired mascots and that 42 schools have changed the names of their teams so far this year.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.