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Strike out the ‘tomahawk chop’

The Atlanta Braves gave us exciting postseason baseball. But it was disheartening to watch a sea of mostly white fans embrace an ugly stereotype of our country’s indigenous people.

Atlanta Braves fans perform the tomahawk chop cheer before Game 4 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Atlanta.
Atlanta Braves fans perform the tomahawk chop cheer before Game 4 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Braves Oct. 30 in Atlanta.
AP

Chop-chop, Atlanta Braves.

No, we’re not celebrating the team’s victory against the Houston Astros with that offensive gesture.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re happy for the World Series champs, who gave us exciting post-season baseball.

And yes, we’re just a little bit happier because they beat that Houston team, after the Astros knocked our own White Sox out of the playoffs.

But now that the series is behind us, we’re hoping the Braves’ management doesn’t waste time: Throw the “tomahawk chop” out of the park once and for all.

It was disheartening during the games to watch a sea of mostly white fans, including former President Donald Trump, embody and embrace an ugly stereotype of our country’s indigenous people with each slicing motion.

Former first lady and president of the United States Melania and Donald Trump do “the chop” prior to Game Four of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Truist Park on October 30, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Former first lady Melania Trump and ex-President Donald Trump do “the chop” prior to Game Four of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Truist Park on October 30, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Getty file

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that 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.”

Not so fast.

The National Congress of American Indians put out a statement denouncing the chop shortly after Manfred’s remarks.

“In our discussions with the Atlanta Braves, we have repeatedly and unequivocally made our position clear — Native people are not mascots, and degrading rituals like the ‘tomahawk chop’ that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said.

It’s the same message Native American organizations and their supporters have been expressing for decades, asking school and professional sports teams to discard mascots, imagery and team names that they say perpetuate damaging caricatures.

From our perspective, it’s simple: Native Americans should decide if such imagery is offensive. Sports teams should honor their decision.

Some have finally listened. Washington’s NFL team retired the “Redskins” name in 2020. Cleveland’s baseball team bid adieu to its ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo, and the team will no longer be referred to as the Indians next year.

The University of Illinois got rid of Chief Illiniwek in 2007. Niles West in Skokie, replaced its teams’ names, the “Indians,” with the “Wolves.”

The Braves are still stalling, though, well aware of the concerns. St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Ryan Helsley, who is of Cherokee descent, expressed his dismay about the chop during the National League Division Series in 2019. So the Braves stopped passing out foam tomahawks and promised not to play related music or graphics — if Helsley ended up on the mound.

The Braves will remain the Braves, the team said last year. Team officials say they remain in dialogue with Native American groups and are reviewing the use of the “tomahawk chop.”

We hope the team finally listens — and makes its decision accordingly.

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