(NewsNation) — In an exclusive interview with NewsNation’s “On Balance,” the nine-year-old boy accused of wearing blackface to a Kansas City Chiefs game is speaking out after his parents filed a lawsuit against website Deadspin, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Holden Armenta, a young Chiefs fan of Native American heritage, found himself at the center of a controversy after Deadspin published an article by Carron J. Phillips titled, “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress” in November. The article accused Armenta of wearing blackface despite footage showing him with red and black paint on his face.
“It was scary because I didn’t know what was happening,” said Holden Armenta, reflecting on the fallout from the article.
Holden’s mother, Shannon Armenta, described her efforts to prove that her son was not in blackface, only to be met with resistance from Deadspin. “I just went to the media and tried to prove that we were not … that he was not in blackface,” she said. “We didn’t know what blackface even was.”
The family’s attorney, Libby Locke, criticized Deadspin’s handling of the situation, accusing the website of intentionally targeting Holden. “They intentionally targeted a nine-year-old boy … and they stole a lot of that innocence from him,” Locke said.
“We do not teach hate in our home. They are not even allowed to say the word hate in our home. We do not hate Black people or Native Americans. It’s ridiculous,” Shannon Armenta said.
The picture of the boy was taken Nov. 26 at the Chiefs-Raiders game in Las Vegas. He was shown on national TV and was also videoed doing the “Tomahawk Chop” along with tens of thousands of fans in attendance. Even some Chiefs players were doing the gesture on the field.
“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,” Phillips wrote in his story.
He continued, “Despite their age, who taught that person that what they were wearing was appropriate?”
Phillips also called out the NFL, calling on the league for “relentlessly participating in prejudice.”
Recently, the NFL changed the Washington Redskins name, which was started in 1933, to the Washington Commanders. The change came after Native American groups complained for years the Redskins name was racist.
After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the NFL also promoted messages of equality and racial justice, yet Phillips said no one from the NFL called what the young boy did wrong.
However, Phillips has also received criticism for blaming the boy for being racist.
When Phillips posted a picture of the kid online, he only showed the black side of the boy’s painted face, which some say was done intentionally to provoke a strong public response.
Phillips also has supporters who said he was right to call them out for being racially insensitive.
Despite the ordeal, Holden remains a devoted Chiefs fan and is eagerly anticipating the upcoming Super Bowl. “It’s the Super Bowl. Like, what can’t you be excited about?” he said during the interview, also pointing out that his favorite player is Travis Kelce.
Holden became a Kansas City Chiefs fan when he was seven years old and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His mother explained that Holden received a cell phone to help monitor his glucose levels, and he began watching football videos and clips on it. His interest in football grew, and he became enamored with the Kansas City Chiefs, learning everything about the team.
The Kansas City Chiefs are set to face off against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in Las Vegas Sunday.