The parents of Holden Armenta have filed a lawsuit against the left-leaning publication Deadspin for an article published last November.
The article by writer Carron Phillips featured a photo of Holden, age 9, wearing face paint in his team’s colors and an Indian headdress. The article was titled, “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress.”
Phillips wrote: “It takes a lot to disrespect two groups of people at once. But on Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas, a Kansas City Chiefs fan found a way to hate black people and the native americans at the same time…Despite their age, who taught that person that what they were wearing was appropriate?”
In fact, the boy wasn’t wearing blackface, and his family says they are of Native American heritage.
Deadspin didn’t correct its article but issued an “update” that read, in part, “We regret any suggestion that we were attacking the fan or his family.”
The family has now filed a lawsuit against Deadspin saying the website “maliciously and wantonly attack[ed] a nine-year-old boy and his parents for Phillips’ own race-drenched political agenda.”
The complaint begins as follows:
Nine-year-old H.A. loves the Kansas City Chiefs—and he loves his family’s Chumash-Indian heritage. On November 26, 2023, H.A. displayed that love by attending the Chiefs-Raiders NFL football game wearing a Chiefs jersey and necklace, his face painted half-red and half-black, and a costume headdress— just as Chiefs fans and other avid sports fans have done for decades.
It includes photos of fans wearing headdresses and face paint in the team’s colors.
In a tweet he later deleted, Phillips called people who defended the boy “idiots” for “treating this as some harmless act.”
More of the complaint reads:
The problem with Phillips’ Article: literally none of it was true. [Holden Armenta] H.A. did not wear blackface. “Blackface” is “dark makeup worn to mimic the appearance of a Black person and especially to mock or ridicule Black people.”1 Before this controversy, nine-year-old H.A. had no idea what blackface was or the racist history behind it. And he certainly did not wear black paint on half of his face to mimic or mock Black people. He is a child, and until Deadspin and Phillips’ malicious accusation, it never occurred to nine-year-old H.A. that a person could hate another for the color of their skin. The truth is that H.A.’s face was painted in Chiefs’ team colors, black and red, split down the middle—just as myriad fans and team regalia have for decades. Nor does H.A. hate Native Americans. He is Native American. And H.A.’s parents, Raul and Shannon Armenta, did not teach H.A. to hate Native Americans at home. H.A.’s father, Raul, belongs to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and he works on the tribal reservation. And H.A.’s grandfather was a tribal elder. Throughout his childhood, H.A.’s parents have taught H.A. and his siblings the proud heritage, culture, and traditions of their tribe—and they celebrate that culture and history proudly. H.A. did not wear a costume headdress because he was “taught hate at home”—he wore it because he loves the Kansas City Chiefs’ football team and because he loves his Native American heritage. By noon the same day Deadspin published the Article, Deadspin’s account on the social media site X (formerly Twitter) was flooded with comments showing H.A.’s full face. At 11:51 AM, H.A.’s mother, Shannon, posted on Facebook that H.A. was Native American and pleaded with Deadspin to “just stop already” in its attempt to create division.