The Atlanta Braves will remain the Atlanta Braves going forward.
In an email sent to their season ticket holders, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk and president/CEO Derek Schiller informed the biggest fans of Braves Country of their decision-making process. McGuirk and Schiller wanted their season ticket holders to know where they stand on the issues surrounding their controversial nickname.
“The Atlanta Braves honors, respects and values the Native American community. As an organization, we have always drawn strength from our diversity and respect for everyone. That will never change.”
“Through our conversations, changing the nickname of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary. We have great respect and reverence for our name and the Native American communities that have held meaningful relationships with us do as well. We will always be the Atlanta Braves.”
The Atlanta Braves nickname stays, but the Tomahawk Chop may go away.
The reason the nickname “Braves” is so controversial is it implies that Native American people are warriors and condones violence. There are obviously considerably more offensive monikers for the native people of this land, but “Braves” does fall into same category as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Changes could happen, but aren’t probable.
While the Braves organization could keep the nickname and pivot to a more pro-military approach very easily (“Home of the Brave”), it’s clear McGuirk, Schiller and the rest of the organization values its relationship with Native Americans and wants to honor the people who called this great land of ours home first.
In their email to season ticket holders, they did say they have spoken with the Eastern Band of Cherokee (EBCI), formed a working relationship with them and have also formed a Native American Working Group. This pivots nicely into the Braves’ discussions to potentially do away with the Tomahawk Chop chant, originally brought to Atlanta by Deion Sanders back in 1991.
“As it relates to the fan experience, including the chop, it is one of the many issues we are working through with the advisory group. The chop was popularized by our fans when Deion Sanders joined out team and it continues to inspire our players on the field.”
“With that in mind, we are continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our players, fans and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience.”
Sanders brought the Tomahawk Chop to Atlanta by way of is alma mater Florida State University. The 1991 introduction of it to Braves culture is significant because this was the year the team went from worst to first. It also occurred midway through Sanders’ five-year run as the superstar cornerback for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The chop has been in Atlanta for nearly 30 years.
Given that it’s only a cheer and hasn’t been part of Braves culture that long, it can go away as soon as the Braves organization can find something better and less offensive to replace it with. The Tomahawk Chop is a unifier among Braves Country, but there is a reason this chant is offensive to so many Native American people. If the chop goes away, even as a Braves fan myself, so be it.
While the Braves name won’t change, the Tomahawk Chop may not be around for much longer.