Democratic senate candidate John Hickenlooper flew to an annual antelope shooting contest on a private jet belonging to the corporate owner of the Atlanta Braves in 2015, according to a state ethics complaint.
Hickenlooper’s participation in the annual "One Shot Antelope Hunt" in Wyoming has drawn criticism after photos emerged of the former Colorado governor wearing American Indian headdresses—which some indigenous activists characterized as "redface"—at the event in 2012 and 2018.
Hickenlooper was convicted earlier this month of ethics violations stemming from his use of corporate-owned private jets during his time as governor. The trip to Wyoming was included in an ethics complaint filed against him in 2018, but was not investigated because it was outside the statute of limitations.
While Hickenlooper remains the frontrunner in Tuesday's Colorado Democratic primary for Senate, several blunders and the reemergence of racially insensitive comments he made have led to a much tougher primary road than expected.
Copies of Hickenlooper's official schedules from 2015 indicate that the then-governor flew to the antelope hunt out of Liberty Media Corp’s corporate jet hangar and returned to the same location.
Liberty Media has owned the Atlanta Braves baseball team since 2007 through the company's Braves Group subsidiary. The team has come under fire from indigenous activists for its use of Native American imagery, including its traditional "Tomahawk chop" cheer.
"Between September 18, 2015 and September 20, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper flew on an aircraft owned by Liberty Media Corp from the Liberty Media Corporate Jet Hangar in Centennial, Colorado to Lander, Wyoming and back for the 'One Shot Antelope Contest,'" said the 2018 ethics complaint filed by the Public Trust Institute in 2018.
Hickenlooper participated in the "One Shot Antelope Hunt" for six years while he was governor, according to his official scheduling records. His final trip was in 2018, when he flew there on a state-owned plane. Photos from the 2018 contest show Hickenlooper wearing a large feather headdress. He is also seen wearing a female Native costume in a 2012 PBS video.
A group of "indigenous women and allies" called on Hickenlooper to drop out of the Colorado Senate race on Sunday because of the photos, saying in an open letter that he "displayed an unacceptable lack of judgement in choosing to participate in this event, while disrespecting Indigenous women and appropriating traditional dress of Native peoples."
Winners of the contest traditionally don Indian feathers and losers dress up as "squaws," an ethnic slur for Native American women, according to the open letter.
"These actions are not missteps. They are not one-time, isolated incidents. Instead, they are part of a disturbing pattern of ignorant and harmful behavior spanning over a decade," the activists wrote.
A spokesperson for Hickenlooper defended the candidate's record on indigenous issues in a statement to the Hill, noting that the former governor issued an executive order in 2015 to reassess the use of Native American mascots on school sports teams.
That executive order came just a few weeks after Hickenlooper attended the antelope hunt.
Hickenlooper’s campaign did not respond to request for comment. A spokesperson for Liberty Media did not return a call requesting comment.