Family Of Young Kansas City Chiefs Fan Sues Deadspin

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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The family of the 9-year-old accused of wearing blackface to a Kansas City Chiefs game is suing Deadspin for “maliciously and wantonly” attacking the child, according to a complaint filed Tuesday.

Carron Phillips, a senior writer at Deadspin, wrote a misleading story in November accusing the child, Holden Armenta, of wearing blackface to a game in Las Vegas. Though Armenta painted one side of his face red, the article included a photograph showing only the one side of his face painted black.

The family is suing the outlet for its alleged “race-drenched political agenda” over the article alleging that Armenta “found a way to hate Black people and the Native Americans at the same time,” according to the complaint titled Armenta v. G/O Media Inc. The complaint states the accusations caused “enormous damage” to their family after they received death threats and a “barrage of hate.”

“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 complaint reads.

Archived version of Deadspin's article [Screenshot/Deadspin]

Archived version of Deadspin’s article

The complaint clarified Armenta did not wear blackface, pointing out that the boy neither knows what blackface is nor wore the faceprint or headdress to symbolize racism. The complaint reiterated previous reports that Armenta is Native American. The headdress the boy wore resembles the traditional logo from the 1960s and early 70s. (RELATED: The Deadspin Writer Trying To Ruin A Child’s Life Is Even Crazier Than You Thought) 

“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 complaint reads.

The suit further alleges Deadspin and Phillips knew the boy did not wear blackface, but decided to write an article “viciously race-baiting” a young boy to “generate clicks.”

The boy’s parents threatened to sue Deadspin and its owner, G/O Media, unless the outlet immediately retracted the story. The outlet instead included an editor’s note stating the article focused on the National Football League’s (NFL) “failure” to extend anti-racist rules across the entire league.

“Deadspin did not retract the Article, and it did not apologize,” the complaint states. “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. And Deadspin’s lawyers threatened the Armenta family with counter-legal action should Raul and Shannon attempt to hold Phillips and Deadspin accountable for their false and defamatory Article.”

The lawsuit alleges Armenta’s grades and test scores have dropped in school since the article’s publication and has caused his father, Raul, to become a “pariah” at work. The family has also considered moving out of state over the incident.

Armenta has suffered “a devastating loss” of his “innocence of youth” and an “encumbered love for his favorite football team and its players, according to the suit.

“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 suit reads.