During the Major League Baseball Playoffs, the Atlanta Braves faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals. Late in the game, the fans at Suntrust Park began to perform the Tomahawk Chop, a tradition the Braves have been using for many decades. Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley brought up the controversial topic after game one of the National League Division Series.
After becoming the Florida State Seminoles chant, the Braves adopted the move after “Prime Time” Deion Sanders, who is an alumni at Florida State, started encouraging teammates to make the hand gesture during the 1992 MLB season. The Braves marketing team saw the success the chop was generating during games and decided to create a foam tomahawk for all fans.
Helsley had much to say regarding what transpired during game one. As a member of the Cherokee tribe and fluent in Cherokee language, Helsley claimed that the chop was “disrespectful and devalues the perceptions of Native Americans.”
The Braves took action the next game by agreeing to stop handing out the foam tomahawks for the remainder of the series and also stopped playing the music that is used when fans are chopping, only while Helsley was pitching. It is unsure what actions the Braves organization plan to make in order to resolve this prominent issue in the offseason.
In recent years the controversy surrounding Native American gestures in sports seems to be brought up constantly. The Cleveland Indians of the MLB had their primary logo depicting a character known as Chief Wahoo. However, after the 2018 season, the Indians organization and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to remove the Chief Wahoo branding from every aspect of the organization but keeping the name Indians. Some other teams of controversy were the Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins who were also scrutinized for not changing their names.
This isn’t the first time this issue has come up and it certainly won’t be the last time the debate over Native American gestures and names will be brought up in the sports world. As any Braves fan knows, as soon as you would walk into the stadium the chanting and chopping are ingrained in the atmosphere. Being in the stadium whenever the music starts playing and thousands of fans begin to chant and start the tomahawk chop with their foam tomahawk or their hands is a sight to behold.
The main reason for the gesture is in no way to offend Native Americans and their heritage. The tomahawk chop is a celebration for the team and a way to pump up the crowd to support their teams. Unless something major happens the majority of fans believe the Braves will keep the tomahawk chop around for the upcoming seasons.