While Washington owner Dan Snyder goes through the process of considering a name change, one of his baseball brethren is digging in on its name, while considering other steps.
According to Ken Rosenthal of TheAthletic.com, the Atlanta Braves will not change their name, but are discussing the continued use of the “Tomahawk Chop” chant.
“The Atlanta Braves honor, support and value the Native American community. That will never change,” the team said in a statement last weekend, adding that they’ve held meetings with the their Native American Working Group to collaborate with the team on “cultural issues, education and community outreach to amplify their voices and show our fans they are still proudly here.”
The chop became an issue last year during the playoffs, when Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley (a member of the Cherokee tribe) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last October that the chant depicts Native Americans “in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual.”
The Braves then canceled the distribution of 40,000 foam tomahawks before the next game, and didn’t play the music that accompanies the chant.
This offseason, the Braves have met with the National Congress of American Indians, and NCAI CEO Kevin Alis said he’s been encouraged by the conversations.
“NCAI is extremely encouraged by the efforts of athletic teams at the major league, college, and high school level that understand the harm to American Indians and their communities caused by mascots and team names,” Allis said. “Such imagery creates misperceptions and unfair stereotypes of the American Indian, tramples on sacred customs and traditions, and results in American Indians not being viewed as equals in our society. Painful disrespect is often seen when fans don themselves in ceremonial regalia, war paint, and shout made up chants with little or no understanding of the importance and stature of such within the American Indian communities across the country.
“We welcome and applaud the efforts to address this important issue by the Cleveland baseball team, and all other organizations in similar situations.”
The Cleveland Indians have also said they’d discuss the best path forward for their name, though their manager has said he believes it’s time for a change. The Indians had previously stopped using their cartoon “Chief Wahoo” mascot, and the Braves abandoned their “Chief Noc-A-Homa,” mascot in 1985.
Chiefs fans also do the chop at their games, though they have escaped the scrutiny while making their quarterback the highest-paid player in the sport.