– The NFL Washington football team dropped its team nickname. The Cleveland Indians become the Guardians. High schools are rethinking their warrior mascots. But in Atlanta, the Braves only doubled their long-criticized “Tomahawk Chop,” in which fans gesture with their arms while shouting a war song, led by a neon tomahawk displayed in front of the outfield. Under pressure last summer, the Braves said they would revise the lore, CNN reports. Nothing has changed. The practice will be displayed nationwide starting Friday night when the World Series moves to Atlanta.
As the Braves take to the national stage for the first time in 22 years, Native American groups and others are renewing their calls to the team to end the practice they call dehumanizing. “It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, CEO of rights advocacy group IllumiNative. “It’s really mind-boggling to see Atlanta really digging into this.” Baseball supported the Braves. Commissioner Rob Manfred said this week that the teams are marketed locally and must please their fans. “The Native American community in this region fully supports the Braves program,” he said, according to the report. Washington post. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story.”
Some groups have challenged Manfred’s claim, including the National Congress of American Indian. The organization also asked Fox Sports to play down fans making the gesture during games, per SCS. The NCAI mentioned the team’s name and the tomahawk on the uniforms, as well as the chop, which it said is “intended to represent and caricature not only a tribal community, but all indigenous peoples.” The Atlanta Indigenous Peoples Association also contradicted Manfred, saying that while many members support the team, the pictures and gestures offend them. The group said it had never been invited to Braves discussions on the matter.
The chop settled in 1991 and was not without opposition back then. “We have received a few complaints that the tomahawk is demeaning to Native Americans,” the team’s public relations director said at the time. “But we see it as a proud expression of unification and family.” There were protests at the World Series that year in Minneapolis when the Braves played there. “Native people are not mascots,” the NCAI has said repeatedly. In such exhibits, a leader of the Atlanta group said, “We are portrayed as artifacts, people who are not really real.” Laura Cummings Balgari added that “we live, breathe, evolve like any other group of people, and we would like to be recognized like that”. (Read more tomahawk chop stories.)