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Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop and name controversy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A foam tomahawk
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 has continued through 2020.[1] The Atlanta Braves and their fans continue overwhelmingly support the team name and chop tradition.[2] In 2020, however, the Braves would remove the team's Tomahawk Chop motivating phrase "Chop On" from both the team's slogan and team's home stadium.[3]


Chief Noc-A-Homa

In 1972, Russell Means filed a $9 million lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians for their use of "Chief Wahoo."[4] Means also objected to the Braves use of Chief Noc-A-Homa.[4] Means said "What if 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?"[4] Means was unaware that Chief Noc-A-Homa was portrayed by a Native American.[5] For a week, controversy raged.[5] Walker went on radio talk shows to defend Noc-A-Homa. Walker said "I think Indians can be proud that their names are used with professional sports teams.[5] Ultimately Noc-A-Homa survived the controversy.[5]

Tomahawk chop

The tomahawk chop was adopted by fans of the Atlanta Braves in 1991.[6] Carolyn King, the Braves organist, 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.[7][8] The usage of foam tomahawks led to criticism from Native American groups that it was "demeaning" to them and called for them to be banned.[8] In response, the Braves' public relations director said that it was "a proud expression of unification and family".[8] King who did not understand the political ramifications, approached one of the Native American chiefs who were protesting.[9] 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."[9]

Foam tomahawks were first created in 1991 for the Braves following their adoption of the tomahawk chop.[10] Foam tomahawks were invented by foam salesman Paul Braddy. Upon hearing Skip Caray saying during a radio broadcast of an Atlanta Braves game that they needed tomahawks to accompany their newly acquired tomahawk chop celebration,[11] he 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.[12][10] The foam tomahawks became very popular with Braves fans at the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium - [13] 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.[14]

The controversy has persisted since and became national news again during the 2019 National League Division Series.[15] 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."[15] 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.[15] 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."[15] The heads of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Cherokee Nation both condemned the chop and chant.[15]

During the off-season, the Braves met with the National Congress of American Indians to start discussing a path forward.[16]

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.[17] After two months of controversy the Braves replaced the cap with a different design that didn't feature the old Native American mascot.[18] 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.[19] The Braves released a statement announcing that discussions were still ongoing about the chop, but the team name would not be changed.[16] 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.” [20] The Braves released a statement announcing that discussions were still ongoing about the chop, but the team name would not be changed.[16]

In July 2020, Richard Sneed, the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians released a statement about the tribe's conversations with the Braves.[21] The statement said the EBCI believed "that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change."[21] 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."[21]

Sneed also stated that he is not offended by the name Braves or the tomahawk chop cheer, but respects the opinion of those who feel differently.[22] “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.[22] “To me, the only thing that’s derogatory is Redskins."[22]

Change in team slogan and entrance sign

During the 2020 Atlanta Braves season, the team's Tomahawk Chop motivating slogan "Chop On" was changed to “For The A.”[3] On July 19, 2020, the wooden "Chop On" which sat near the third base entrance to Truist Park was removed and replaced with a "For the A" sign.[23][3] However, the usage of the Tomahawk Chop was still under review.[3]

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 d Odum, Charles (July 20, 2020). "Braves remove 'Chop On' sign, slogan, but no call on chant". Associated Press. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Indians on the Warpath". The Charlotte News. January 19, 1972. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Shultz, Jeff (July 17, 1991). "Tomahawks? Scalpers? Fans whoop it up". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  7. ^ Moore, Terrence (August 9, 1991). "Organist Carolyn King encourages tomahawking 'Wave' into a ripple". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Anderson, Dave (1991-10-13). "The Braves' Tomahawk Phenomenon". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Wilkinson, Jack (October 8, 2004). "On her final chops". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Anderson, Dave (October 13, 1991). "Sports of The Times - The Braves' Tomahawk Phenomenon". New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  11. ^ "200,000 Foam Tomahawks: That's Not Chopped Liver". Bloomberg. October 11, 1991. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "Carving can be electric". Baltimore Sun. November 12, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  13. ^ Hiatt, Gabe. "A Super Bowl win could help Atlanta shake its reputation as a bad sports town". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  14. ^ CRAIG DAVIS (September 14, 1991). "Braves' Park Now A Tomahawk Shop". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c 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.
  17. ^ Lukas, Paul (December 27, 2012). "First look:new MLB batting practice caps". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  18. ^ Lukas, Paul (February 11, 2013). "Braves shelve cap with controversial logo". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  19. ^ Waldstein, David (July 7, 2020). "First look:new MLB batting practice caps". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  20. ^ Tucker, Tim (July 7, 2020). "Braves executives make team's position clear on name change questions". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^
This page was last edited on 28 November 2020, at 01:56
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