In Las Vegas, during a visit by the Kansas City Chiefs, a smiling young Chiefs fan was photographed with his face painted black and a Native American headdress as he cheered for his team.
That photo outraged a black reporter named Carron Phillips, who writes for sports news website Deadspin. In his story, Phillips said the then-unidentified football fan “found a way to hate Black people and Native Americans at the same time.”
Phillips also demanded the NFL identify the boy and punish him to prove it is does not condone racism.
The boy has now been identified as Holden Armenta, who is 9 and whose heritage is Native American.
Mike Hill of Project 21 says he followed the controversy this week, including the revelation the boy was not wearing “black face” because the other side of his face was painted red to support the team.
As the story progressed this week, the public learned the young boy’s name and then learned his family heritage is Native American. The boy’s grandfather sits on a tribal council in California.
When the public realized the supposed controversy was “utter nonsense,” Hill says, the public also realized the issue appears to be Phillips, the Deadspin writer, and others like him.
“Who are always looking for any sort of way they can to try and tear this country apart,” Hill says. “Instead of being unified, instead of being together, because that makes us stronger.”
As the public learned more about the story and the boy, social media went on the warpath against Phillips. His Twitter account was bombarded with complaints and mockery for his attempt to create a race-based story from a single photo of a young football fan he knew nothing about.