The NFL season is about to wrap up, with the San Francisco 49ers taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in Las Vegas Sunday. While it has largely been an unremarkable season, there is still considerable excitement for the biggest sporting event of the year. Somewhat overshadowing the game, much of the focus is on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Now, another story involving a Kansas City Chief fan is resurfacing.
The family of a 9-year-old boy who was wrongly accused of wearing blackface to a Chiefs game is suing the entertainment outlet Deadspin for “maliciously and wantonly” attacking the child in November. The boy, Holden Armenta, painted one side of his face red and the other side black, matching the team’s colors. The article included a picture of the boy, only showing the black side of his face.
The writer, Carron Phillips, a senior writer at Deadspin, alleged that Armenta “found a way to hate Black people and the Native Americans at the same time,” despite having full knowledge that the young boy had both sides of his face painted. The complaint claims “emotional damage,” also stating the family has received numerous death threats.
The complaint reads in part: “By selectively capturing from the CBS broadcast an image of H.A. showing only the one side of his face with black paint on it—an effort that took laser-focused precision to accomplish given how quickly the boy appeared on screen—Phillips and Deadspin deliberately omitted the half of H.A.’s face with red paint on it.” The suit further claims that Deadspin and Phillips knew they child wasn’t wearing blackface, but wrote the article anyway to “generate clicks.”
It was widely reported and confirmed that the child himself is part Native American. The complaint also said, “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.” The family threatened to sue Deadspin and its parent company unless the outlet retracted the false story, which they failed to do.
Despite clearly being in the wrong and caught red-handed, Deadspin doubled down with an editor’s note deflecting from their false claim and calling out the NFL for failure to extend an anti-racist policy leaguewide. The complaint continues: “Deadspin did not retract the Article, and it did not apologize. Rather, it published a series of further ‘updates’ that not only failed to correct the record, but instead established that Deadspin fully understood the Article’s highly damaging and defamatory nature—while maliciously refusing to back down.”
The family reports that the young boy has struggled at school, and his father, Raul, has considered moving out of state over the incident. The suit also reads: “Sadly, H.A. will never know a life in which his face and name are not inextricably linked to false accusations of racist conduct. When you Google H.A.’s name, the first result states that he has “been accused of racism by a reporter” for Deadspin. The second alleges that the ‘article alleged that [the Armenta’s] son, [H.A.], exhibited racist behavior[.]’ The third describes what happened to H.A. as a “viral hit piece.”
The phrase ‘fake news” was coined in recent years, but it doesn’t always apply solely to legacy media. Even fringe publications like Deadsping have to be held accountable, especially when they ruin lives in exchange for clicks. Deadspin has been on life-support as an outlet for some time, and this lawsuit should effectively pull the plug on the fake news outlet for good.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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