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CBS apologizes for OutKast's performance

The band's Grammy performance featured feathers and war paint
/ Source: The Associated Press

CBS apologized Friday to American Indians angered by OutKast’s Grammy Awards performance, which featured feathers and war paint.

“We are very sorry if anyone was offended,” said Nancy Carr, a CBS spokeswoman in Los Angeles.

As the final act of Sunday’s Grammy telecast, OutKast’s Andre “3000” Benjamin and several dancers swirled wildly around a green teepee as he sang “Hey Ya!” Costumes included war paint, feathers and fringe.

OutKast’s hip-hoppy jive won three trophies: best urban-alternative performance for “Hey Ya!” and best rap album and overall album of the year for “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”

“I like OutKast. I like their music,” said Tom Bee, an Albuquerque record producer and musician, who was nominated for the Native American music Grammy. “But I thought the show was not correct. It was degrading.”

The San Francisco-based Native American Cultural Center called for a boycott of CBS; OutKast; Arista, their record company; and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which sponsors the Grammys.

The center also has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and said it posted documents online explaining “why this broadcast was racist and why the companies involved need to take responsibility for their commercialization of Native American culture.”

The Web site also urged viewers to “Turn Off CBS,” and for each boycotter to ask 10 friends to do likewise.

In New York, a woman who answered the phone Friday at Arista Records’ publicity office said OutKast had no immediate comment.

Stereotypes and disrespectGeorge Toya of the Jemez Pueblo powwow group Black Eagle, who was in the audience at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, said he was initially happy when he heard the chant that opened OutKast’s performance. He thought he was about to see an American Indian group perform.

“It was a Navajo song that I recognized, and I got a little excited,” said Toya, who was at the ceremony with other members of Black Eagle to pick up a Grammy for best Native American music album for “Flying Free.”

But the drumming was actually the intro to “Hey Ya!”

Toya said he couldn’t believe it.

“I told my wife who was sitting beside me, ‘Somebody is going to be (angry) about this,”’ he said.

American Indians across the country were angered by what they said was a performance disrespectful to their culture and a perpetuation of tomahawk-and-teepee stereotypes.

The Oneida Nation criticized the performance on Tuesday. launched an online petition calling for an apology from Andre. By Wednesday night, there were 2,500 signatures.

Bee was particularly angered that the dancers who accompanied Andre wore feathers, a sacred symbol for American Indians.