Changing the name of the Atlanta Braves is not under consideration, unlike some other pro sports teams. The NFL’s Washington Redskins decided to drop the team’s name in the face of opposition from various groups during the ongoing protests over the death of Black people at the hands of police officers.
“We will always be the Atlanta Braves,” the team said in a letter to season ticket holders, but acknowledged that the tomahawk chant will be reviewed while the team seeks input from Native Americans, fans, players and former players.
The Braves said they had established a “cultural working relationship” with Cherokees in North Carolina and created a Native American working group on the tomahawk chant. Consequently, the team said, “Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary.” Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said, “We have committed to working with the Atlanta Braves as they explore opportunities to represent Native Nations more appropriately.” He said, “candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change.”
Braves officials have said they expect the team’s name will not change but there is a question about whether the tomahawk chop will be continuing at Truist Park, home of the Braves here in Cobb County. The chop, which fans have enjoyed doing over the years, began long ago when Deion Sanders became a team member and borrowed the chant from his football days at Florida State University. The chop was extremely popular as the Braves made their run to the World Series in the 1990s. Regardless of what the Braves officially decide, it will be a tough challenge to keep fans from doing the chop and the chant once they can attend games again.
In the same boat with the Braves, the Cleveland Indians are under pressure to change the team’s name after having dropped the controversial logo Chief Wahoo last year. The objections to using the name Indians were summed up by Josh Hunt, a Cheyenne Indian and vice-chair of the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity & Resistance. “We have been shouting and yelling and demanding this change for decades and it is only now that a series of tragedies have occurred that we are being listened to,” he told a Cleveland reporter. “Whether it’s the Indians, the Warriors or the racial slur – the redskins – these harm Native Americans and we have scientific evidence showing the it is dangerous to self-esteem, damages youth and hurts our ability imagine a future for us and instills feelings of shame.” One thing seems evident, namely the likelihood that not many baseball fans were aware of the effects cited by Mr. Hunt before the current widespread ongoing protests over names of major military bases, including Fort Benning here in Georgia.
Predictably, President Trump jumped into the controversy, criticizing the Washington Redskins before they dropped the name and the Cleveland Indians as they considered a change. Trump said teams are named “out of strength, not weakness” and name changing by the Redskins and Indians came under the heading of being “politically correct.”
In today’s polarized climate, it’s sad to realize that baseball fans may no longer simply enjoy the game without having to deal with protests over various issues. It’s not clear if Braves fans may still be doing the tomahawk when they get to attend the games again. For now, it’s “Go Braves!”