Holden Armenta is the young Kansas City Chiefs fan who was photographed with his face painted in the team’s red-and-black colors and who was accused of “blackface” by a Deadspin writer, sparking backlash against the writer.
His name was revealed through posts from his mother and father on Facebook; his mother said in one post that he is Native American.
Many social media users have leapt to Holden Armenta’s defense, slamming the Deadspin writer on social media and arguing Holden was not trying to make a racial statement at all and was not wearing “blackface.” Rather, the boy’s defenders say he was just wearing the colors of his favorite team (the Chiefs’ colors also include white more prominently).
A fuller photo shows Holden Armenta with his face painted half-red and half-black, whereas the photo Deadspin ran with its article only shows the side of his face that was painted in black. Even X CEO Elon Musk weighed in on Holden’s side, calling the Deadspin X post “deception.”
“The other side of his race was RED! 🤣” Holden’s mom Shannon Armenta wrote in one of many public posts defending her son. Holden’s dad, Bubba Armenta, also shared posts of his son on Facebook, and he made the viral photo of his son in Chiefs’ gear his cover photo. “The biggest Fan #ChiefsKingdom #NFL,” he wrote with a picture of his son at the game.
Deadspin did not name the boy in the picture. His mother Shannon Armenta wrote in one Facebook post that her son is Native American; the Deadspin writer had criticized him for wearing a Native American headdress. The family is from Santa Ynez, California. The Post Millennial wrote that “his grandfather sits on the board of the Chumash Tribe in Santa Ynez.”
Shannon Armenta told Heavy her husband’s full name is Raul Armenta Jr. An obituary for Manuel Armenta, 82, an elder of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, says one of his children is named Raul Armenta. It appears that Manuel Armenta is Holden’s great-grandfather. “The father of 12, including current Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta, he took great pride in attending his children’s sporting events throughout their school years. He also went on hunting trips with his sons and, eventually, his grandsons. He instilled in all his children a strong work ethic and a desire to serve their community,” the obit for Manuel Armenta reads. Manuel’s son, Raul Armenta Sr., is listed as “BUSINESS COMMITTEE MEMBER, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians” on the tribe’s website.
Heavy reached out to Shannon and Raul “Bubba” Armenta on Facebook to seek their comment. She referred Heavy to her husband, and he said he needed to check with their lawyer before deciding whether to speak to the news media. That’s the first time it’s been reported that they have one. A post naming Armenta by Collin Rugg on X has almost 1 million views in one hour.
Some people defending Armenta on X have compared him to Nick Sandmann, the high school student who sued multiple news outlets over their reporting into a viral video showing his encounter with a Native American man in Washington D.C.
Here’s what you need to know:
Holden Armenta’s Mother Wrote That She Was ‘Relieved That Most People Stand Behind Us’
The original article on Deadspin by Carron J. Phillips is headlined, “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress. They’re doubling up on the racism. Are you going to say anything, Roger Goodell?”
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.”
Armenta’s mother Shannon Armenta shared a Fox News story in a Facebook post defending her son. “Odd to see my child on Fox News! Relieved that most people stand behind us! ♥️💛” she wrote. The Fox News post contained the caption, “The article accused a child of wearing blackface by only showing one side of his face.”
Her Facebook thread filled up with people defending her son and criticizing Deadspin. “You have the full support of all who matter. That carries you more than anything ❤️😘 I’m sure lil bud would like Kelce but ya know,” a woman wrote.
Another woman wrote, “Shannon , I’m so sorry this is happening to your family. You have a lot of people, supporting your beautiful son/family.”
On November 26, 2023, Armenta shared a TikTok video about her son and wrote, “Everyone asked to take a photo with him. He’s Native American – people are ridiculous.” In 2016, she shared photos of a tipi party with her kids dressed in Native American attire.
A woman responded on the mom’s thread, “Wow. If they only knew this awesome kid. How dare this guy…SMH. Holden you looked awesome!”
Elon Musk Weighed in on a Community Note About the Deadspin Article, Crediting it With ‘Exposing Deception’
A community note was attached to Deadspin’s post on X. “The kid is not wearing ‘blackface,’” the note reads. “The Deadspin article is purposely deceiving. As several fans in attendance noted, the other half of his face is painted red.”
Elon Musk shared the post with the community note and wrote, “And another @CommunityNoteswin exposing deception.”
Phillips then responded by writing, “for the idiots in my mentions who are treating this as some harmless act because the other side of his face was painted red, I could make the argument that it makes it even worse. Y’all are the ones who hate Mexicans but wear sombreros on Cinco.” He later deleted that tweet.
Shannon Armenta also shared a story about Elon Musk criticizing Deadspin. She tagged Deadspin on another post, writing, “This has nothing to do with the NFL. Also, CBS showed him multiple times and this is the photo people chose to blast to create division. He is Native American – just stop already.” In another post, she wrote, “Again not a full black face. Get it right.”
Armenta shared her own video of Holden at the game and wrote, “The players even loved it! #NBC #ChiefsKingdom #Chiefs #espn.”
She previously shared a photo of Holden in a youth football uniform in a fundraising pop-up store for the boy.
His parents are listed as helping with a youth football team in Santa Ynez.