November 3rd, 2021 Last Updated on: November 3rd, 2021
The Atlanta Braves are officially baseballs' best team, after defeating the Houston Astros 4-2 in the World Series.
Yet, the gesture known as the “tomahawk chop”—which has long been used by fans of teams with Native American mascots—is still under scrutiny.
The tomahawk is an axe that is native to the first inhabitants of North America. At Braves games, it's not uncommon to see many fans sporting red foam tomahawks and wearing Braves gear displaying the image.
Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, recently stated in an interview that “The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the [tomahawk] chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story.”
How can he claim that the “Native American community” believes in the continuance of the tomahawk chop and chant and that they fully back it?
Some Native Americans have been advocating and protesting for a change. Obviously, there's no consensus of belief about the tomahawk chop, neither among Native Americans nor the general population. But regardless of your opinion on the Atlanta Braves and what they stand for, their tomahawk chop and chant are racist and need to go.
A Little History of the Tomahawk Chop
The glorified tomahawk chop that Braves fans automatically start when the organ starts to play, along with the infamous war chant that was modeled after Florida State’s, have been around since 1991.
The chop had been largely unchallenged up until Ryan Helsley, a pitcher of the St. Louis Cardinals and a member of the Cherokee Nation, spoke out against it in 2019.
Of course, there have been individuals and groups occasionally speaking out against the chop throughout the years, but it hadn’t emerged to the forefront of the news cycle until recently.
Fast Forward to the Present
Over the years, there have been 15 major teams that have switched from racist names and mascots to something much more politically correct. Most recently, the Cleveland Indians changed their team’s name to the Guardians and the Washington Redskins changed theirs to the Washington Football Team.
More people are getting on board with the idea that these name changes and mascot modifications need to happen, as what is currently occurring is simply not right.
An article in The Undefeated stated the problem at hand perfectly:
“Without getting too far into a battle of right or wrong, and, quite frankly, in 2021, people of color are tired of having to explain how things like representation correlate to violence and harm in communities. Basically, when people are caricatured routinely, it’s a form of violence that manifests itself in other ways that go far beyond dignity.”
But not everyone feels this way, which is keeping many teams from changing.
What Are People So Worried About?
There are die-hard Braves fans out there that, no matter what, will not be okay with any sort of change to the team’s logo, name, mascot or chant. Certainly not the tomahawk chop. These are the individuals who have been watching Braves baseball games religiously, have fond memories of cheering them on at the old Turner Field, and too much nostalgia of cracker jacks, hot dogs, and beer. So they don’t want anyone trying to wipe out their hard drives.
The debate over the tomahawk chop & other racist mascots in sports isn’t about whether or not they cause harm harm.
The harm is well documented.
It’s about whether or not people care. #WorldSeries
— Rebecca Nagle (@rebeccanagle) November 2, 2021
Many people view a change in a team as bad luck, as if slightly modifying a logo or changing to a more respectful name will abruptly turn the team's fortune.
However, if you put superstitions aside and think about this logically, changing the name of a team and getting rid of a traditional chant, does not influence any of the following:
- Who plays on the team
- The players’ athletic abilities
- Where the games are held
- Which seats you’ll sit in
- How much you’ll pay for the experience
- The colors representing the team
- What the team represents in terms of leadership, values, perseverance, attitude, etc.
- How much fun you’ll have watching the game
- Which teams play each other
- How you can view the games on television
And it clearly doesn’t affect whether or not a team wins the World Series.
Regardless of which side you are on in the tomahawk chop debate, this topic is relevant, it is about social justice, representation, and equality, and it is something that sports teams will be making decisions on in the future.
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