From the Complaint filed today in Armenta v. G/O Media Inc. (Del. Super. Ct.):
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.
During the CBS television broadcast, H.A. was shown for three seconds, where the audience can clearly see his red-and-black face paint. Immediately thereafter, CBS panned to a Raiders fan in black-and-white face paint. Together, they represented fervent fans with their faces painted for game-day battle, each wearing their team’s respective colors and costume garb ….
Those few seconds provided just the opportunity for Deadspin Senior Writer Carron Phillips to, on behalf of himself and his employer Deadspin, maliciously and wantonly attack a nine-year-old boy and his parents for Phillips’ own race-drenched political agenda. 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.
Armed with this misleadingly-edited photo, Phillips wrote an article, published by Deadspin, entitled “The NFL needs to speak out against the Kansas City Chiefs fan in Black face, Native headdress” (“the Article”).
The Article falsely alleged that H.A. had “found a way to hate Black people and the Native Americans at the same time.” It alleged that H.A.’s parents, Shannon and Raul, “taught” H.A. “racism and hate” at home. It intentionally painted a picture of the Armenta Family as anti-Black, anti-Native American bigots who proudly engaged in the worst kind of racist conduct motivated by their family’s hatred for Black and Native Americans.
The problem with Phillips’ Article: literally none of it was true. 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.” 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 ….
Deadspin and Phillips saw all this. The day the Article was published, they acknowledged that they had seen H.A.’s full face, yet they intentionally elected not to do anything to mitigate the damage done. Instead, Phillips took to X to call his critics “idiots.”
Later, Deadspin republished the Article with an intentionally misleading update (the “Republication”) that doubled down and further defamed the Armenta family. It maintained all of the defamatory falsehoods with full knowledge—and ample evidence—of their falsehood.
Over the next two weeks, the Armenta Family repeatedly wrote to Deadspin demanding that it retract the Article and apologize to the Armenta Family. 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. 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.
Deadspin’s lies have caused the Armenta Family enormous damage.
They have exposed the family to a barrage of hate, including death threats (“I’m going to kill [H.A.] with a wood chipper”) and insults (calling H.A. a “p-ssy,” a “mother fucker,” and a “n-gg-r”). They have made Raul a pariah at work, forcing the family to consider moving out of state. And they have branded a nine-year-old child with false allegations that will live forever online. H.A. has already suffered significantly—his test scores and grades have dropped in school, and he has shown emotional damage from the onslaught of negative attention.
Deadspin has gone too far. H.A. should not have to live with his face being plastered on social media alongside false and defamatory accusations of racist conduct. His parents should not be forced to live with the false and defamatory allegation that they are teaching “hate in the home.” And Raul and Shannon will not be bullied by Deadspin’s threat of counter-legal action for vindicating their rights—and the rights of their nine-year old son. The Armenta Family brings this lawsuit to set the record straight and to hold Deadspin accountable for willfully spreading incendiary lies about a nine-year-old child who it chose as a vehicle for its race-baiting agenda….