There’s a popular story that’s made the rounds for years now that Lamar Hunt wanted to retain the name, “Texans”, when he moved his franchise to Kansas City prior to the 1963 season.
There appears to be some truth to that story. Hunt had a number of Texas players on his team for the obvious reason that even back then sports fans knew that the Lone Star state turned out some of the nation’s best.
Evidently, he was talked out of that idea by his general manager, Jack Steadman, and perhaps others and so he went searching for a new name. Having fielded any number of calls on the matter of the name Chiefs during my time as public relations director, I can tell you that the Indian imagery has become highly unpopular in today’s politically-correct culture, at least to some in the Native American community. To answer those criticisms of activists I had always countered with the fact that the team was actually named for the man who had reached out to Hunt in the early years to move his team to Kansas City, the town’s mayor H. Roe Bartle, who was affectionately referred to as “The Chief.”
If you look around you’ll see numerous photos of Bartle with Indian headdress quickly putting to rest my original thought that Native American had nothing to do with the Chiefs name. Surely it must have and a recent discovery seems to prove that the mayor’s nickname was nothing more than a coincidence.
In a “special” to Pro Football Illustrated of June, 1963, Hunt was quoted as saying “that [the name] Chiefs best combined what we were looking for in a new name. It has local significance. The Kansas City area was once a dwelling place for at least four different Indian tribes. It has class and it is short enough to appear in headlines anywhere. These just a few of the factors considered.” Indeed, many local Native American groups have been supportive of the name down through the years with some exceptions.
If you visit the Hall of Honor today you’ll see in the Hunt case single sheets of paper containing thousands of suggestions offered by fans for a new name for the city’s newest team. The Kansas City Star conducted the contest to help Hunt come up with the name Chiefs.
Some 4,866 entries were received and they came from 21 states, from such far-removed places as Connecticut, Arizona, California and New York.
All totaled there were 1,020 different names suggested and Chiefs was not the most popular. It was “Mules” with “Royals” a close second and others receiving votes included Pioneers, Steers, Mokans, Tornadoes, Mavericks, Bulls, Plainsmen, Wranglers, Mo-Hawks, Hunters and Scouts.
There were 154 different animal names suggested
, names like Dandy-Lions, 19 space age names, Cosmos, Comets, and 24 names associated with the old team name, including the name Texans itself. (you must come to grips with the idea of Texas as a big deal in football even for folks who didn’t live there at the time).
The shortest name: Ox or Oxen. The longest: the Kansas City Mid-American Royal-Hearts.
In any case, at the team’s official debut in Kansas City on August 9, 1963, the team, the Kansas City Star, and the city’s Chrysler dealers honored one Mr. Everett L. Diemler as the winner of the “Name the Team Contest.”
He was awarded a new Valient automobile during the evening’s festivities.
The name, “Chiefs,” to no surprise was not Diemler’s alone as there had been 42 others who had come up with that name, but he had also provided the most accurate guess as to how many season tickets would be sold between April 15 and May 1, 1963.
Diemler was the warehouse manager for the Albert O. Jensen Furnace and Supply Company and he was presented with the keys to his new car by Lamar Hunt himself.