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Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop and name controversy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A foam tomahawk

The Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop and name controversy involves the name and tomahawk chop tradition by the Atlanta Braves, an American Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise. Native Americans have been questioning the Braves' mascot choices since the 1970s. Native American objections to the tomahawk chop received much attention during the 1990s and have continued into the 2020s.[1] The Atlanta Braves and their fans continue their overwhelming support of the team name and chop tradition.[2]

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  • Tomahawk Chop - Atlanta Braves vs Houston Astros - World Series - Game 4 - October 30, 2021



Chief Noc-A-Homa

In 1972, Russell Means filed a $9 million lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians for their use of "Chief Wahoo".[3] Means also objected to the Braves' use of Chief Noc-A-Homa.[3] Means said, "What if it was the Atlanta Germans and after every home run, a German dressed in military uniform began hitting a Jew on the head with a baseball bat?"[3] Means was unaware that Chief Noc-A-Homa was portrayed by a Native American, Levi Walker.[4] For a week, controversy raged.[4] Walker went on radio talk shows to defend Noc-A-Homa. He said, "I think Indians can be proud that their names are used with professional sports teams".[4] Ultimately, Noc-A-Homa survived the controversy.[4]

Tomahawk chop

Braves organist Carolyn King was credited with originating the tomahawk song in 1991.

The tomahawk chop originated at Florida State and was adopted by fans of the Atlanta Braves in 1991.[5] Carolyn King, the Braves' organist, stated she wasn't influenced by Florida State.[5] She had played the "tomahawk song" during most at-bats for a few seasons, but it finally caught on with Braves fans when the team started winning.[6][7] The usage of foam tomahawks led to criticism from Native American groups that it was "demeaning" to them and calls for them to be banned.[7] In response, the Braves' public relations director said that it was "a proud expression of unification and family".[7] King, who did not understand the political ramifications, approached one of the Native American chiefs who were protesting.[8] The chief told her that leaving her job as an organist would not change anything and that if she left, "they'll find someone else to play".[8]

Foam tomahawks were first created by foam salesman Paul Braddy in 1991 for the Braves, following their adoption of the tomahawk chop.[9] Upon hearing Skip Caray say during a radio broadcast of an Atlanta Braves game that they needed tomahawks to accompany their newly acquired tomahawk chop celebration,[10] Braddy approached the Braves' concessions manager, John Eifert, with a suggestion of a foam rubber tomahawk. Eifert agreed, providing they cost around $5, to which Braddy carved a tomahawk out of foam with an electric knife.[11][9] The foam tomahawks became very popular with Braves fans at the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium,[12]—so much so, that Braddy was able to quit his $60,000-a-year salesman's job in order to manufacture foam tomahawks full-time and was able to create 8,000 a day.[13]

The controversy has persisted since and became national news again during the 2019 National League Division Series.[14] During the series, St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher and Cherokee Nation member Ryan Helsley was asked about the chop and chant. Helsley said he found the fans' chanting and arm motions insulting and that the chop depicts natives "in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren't intellectual".[14] The relief pitcher's comments prompted the Braves to stop handing out foam tomahawks, playing the chop music, or showing the chop graphic when the series returned to Atlanta for Game 5.[14] The Braves released a statement, saying they would "continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience" and that they would continue a "dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes".[14] The heads of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Cherokee Nation (tribal nations whose ancestral homelands include Atlanta or Georgia) both condemned the chop and chant.[14]

During the off-season, the Braves met with the National Congress of American Indians to start discussing a path forward.[15] For eighteen months after the 2019 NLDS incident, the president and CEO of the Braves, Derek Schiller, refused to disclose a position on the chop.[16] When the Braves played their first home game with fans, the club encouraged fans to chant and chop.[16] Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred opined during the 2021 World Series, "It's important to understand we have thirty markets around the country. They're not all the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community". He supported the Braves' position on the matter because the Native American community in the Atlanta area "is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the chop. For me, that's the end of the story".[17][18] Manfred provided no evidence for his statements, and his assertions were criticized by Native people as baseless and ill-informed.[19]

Richard Sneed, the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, also stated that he personally is not offended by the name Braves or the tomahawk chop but calls the chant "hokey", adding, "I told them, man, that's like 1940s, 1950s spaghetti western stuff." Sneed said he respects the opinion of those who oppose the name and chop motion.[20][21] "I always took it as, from the time I was a child or a teen, that it was an acknowledgement of the warrior spirit of Native Americans and their strength, and so forth", Sneed said.[20] "To me, the only thing that's derogatory is Redskins".[20] Before the 2021 World Series, citing the disproportionate rates of poverty, sexual assault, and substance use that Native Americans face, Sneed said, "there are huge issues that are facing Indian country, and I get a little bit frustrated when it seems to be the only thing that people are outraged about is somebody swinging their arm at a baseball game".[22] He added, "I've been asked previously, 'Are you offended by the tomahawk on the uniform?' Like, why? A tomahawk is an inanimate object. Why would I be offended by that?"[22] Still, the Eastern Cherokee Band of Indians and the Braves organization have embarked on efforts to be more culturally appropriate and to integrate parts of Cherokee language and culture into the team's activities, stadium, and merchandise.[23]

Team name and branding

In the winter of 2013, the team came under fire for using the Native American head logo on their spring training caps.[24] After two months of controversy, the Braves replaced the cap with a different design that didn't feature the old Native American mascot.[25] In July 2020, after the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians announced they were reevaluating their Native American mascots, attention turned to the Atlanta Braves team name.[26] The Braves released a statement, announcing that discussions were still ongoing about the chop, but the team name would not be changed.[15] In an interview, Braves president Terry McGuirk said, "we are so proud of our team's name, and our expectation is that we will always be the Atlanta Braves".[27]

In July 2020, Richard Sneed released a statement about the tribe's conversations with the Braves.[28] The statement said the EBCI believed "that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change".[28] The EBCI statement also applauded "the Braves' willingness to engage in this effort and look forward to continuing to build the relationship the EBCI shares with them, to present a model for how other professional sports teams can work with Native Nations in a respectful and constructive manner".[28] Before the 2021 World Series, the NCAI criticized the defense of the mascot and "chop" by MLB commissioner Manfred, and NCAI president Fawn Sharp reiterated the viewpoint of Native Americans that any caricature representation is harmful.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Lutz, Tom (July 13, 2020). "Indians, Braves and Chiefs: what now for US sports' other Native American names?". The Guardian. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "Fans overwhelmingly support keeping Braves name". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 10, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Indians on the Warpath". The Charlotte News. January 19, 1972. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Hudspeth, Ron (January 19, 1977). "Good News for Kiddies: Noc-A-Homa Returning". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Shultz, Jeff (July 17, 1991). "Tomahawks? Scalpers? Fans whoop it up". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  6. ^ Moore, Terrence (August 9, 1991). "Organist Carolyn King encourages tomahawking 'Wave' into a ripple". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Anderson, Dave (October 13, 1991). "The Braves' Tomahawk Phenomenon". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Wilkinson, Jack (October 8, 2004). "On her final chops". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Anderson, Dave (October 13, 1991). "Sports of The Times - The Braves' Tomahawk Phenomenon". New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  10. ^ "200,000 Foam Tomahawks: That's Not Chopped Liver". Bloomberg. October 11, 1991. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  11. ^ "Carving can be electric". Baltimore Sun. November 12, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  12. ^ Hiatt, Gabe. "A Super Bowl win could help Atlanta shake its reputation as a bad sports town". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  13. ^ CRAIG DAVIS (September 14, 1991). "Braves' Park Now A Tomahawk Shop". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e Edwards, Johnny (October 13, 2019). "Chiefs of Georgia native tribes call tomahawk chop 'inappropriate'". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Rosenthal, Ken (July 7, 2020). "The Braves are discussing their use of the Tomahawk Chop, but not their name". The Athletic. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Burns, Gabe (April 9, 2021). "Braves use 'tomahawk chop' during home opener". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  17. ^ Rogers, Jesse (October 26, 2021). "Braves' tomahawk chop gesture a matter for Atlanta's Native American community, commissioner Rob Manfred says". Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  18. ^ Nightengale, Bob; Lacques, Gabe (October 26, 2021). "'End of the story': MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred standing down on Atlanta's tomahawk chop, nickname". USA Today. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  19. ^ Streeter, Kurt (October 29, 2021). "M.L.B. Commissioner Can't Hear Native Voices Over Atlanta's Chop". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  20. ^ a b c Spencer, Sarah (July 10, 2020). "Braves' name, chop are complex and personal issues for Native Americans". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  21. ^ Streeter, Kurt (October 29, 2021). "M.L.B. Commissioner Can't Hear Native Voices Over Atlanta's Chop". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  22. ^ a b Stephanie Apstein (October 28, 2021). "Why Does MLB Still Allow Synchronized, Team-Sanctioned Racism in Atlanta?". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  23. ^ Martin, Joseph (August 20, 2020). "Braves work with tribe to address cultural concerns". Indian Country Today. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  24. ^ Lukas, Paul (December 27, 2012). "First look:new MLB batting practice caps". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  25. ^ Lukas, Paul (February 11, 2013). "Braves shelve cap with controversial logo". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  26. ^ Waldstein, David (July 7, 2020). "First look:new MLB batting practice caps". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  27. ^ Tucker, Tim (July 7, 2020). "Braves executives make team's position clear on name change questions". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  28. ^ a b c McQuade, Alec (July 13, 2020). "Native American tribe responds to Braves' talks on Tomahawk Chop, team name". WXIA-TV. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  29. ^ Joseph Salvador (October 27, 2021). "National Congress of American Indians Respond to Manfred on Atlanta's Name, Celebration". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
This page was last edited on 27 September 2023, at 18:04
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