How you spend your free time is nobody’s business but your own. But as for me and my 85-inch TV? We watch about as much baseball as we do Fox News—which is exactly none.
There are, however, moments where I catch highlights or glimpses of baseball on social media or on shows like ESPN’s SportsCenter, and struggle to understand how in the hell the Atlanta Braves’ signature “Tomahawk chop”—which Sports Illustrated affectionately calls “synchronized racism”—is still a thing in 2021. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way, as CNN reports that Indigenous leaders are calling for the “dehumanizing” tradition to end ahead of Game 3 of the 2021 World Series:
Native groups and advocates are demanding that the Atlanta Braves eliminate the “Tomahawk chop” symbol and gesture from its branding and game day traditions, saying the team is perpetuating racist stereotypes as the Braves take the national stage in the World Series.
Leaders from the Native community said this week it’s past time for the Braves to join other professional sports teams such as the Cleveland Guardians and Washington Football Team in removing offensive imagery and mascots which they say reduce Native people down to caricatures.
As we previously reported at The Root, last December, the Cleveland Indians Guardians came to their senses and decided to get rid of their racist-ass name, to the chagrin of Unseasoned Twitter. Prior to that, the Washington Football Team bid adieu to their own highly offensive monicker, but only because of corporate pressure brought on by the officer-related murder of George Floyd.
Clearly, the Tomahawk chop has been a point of contention within Indigenous groups and tribal communities since its introduction in 1991, but earlier this week, when Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred fixed his white-ass face to say that the city of Atlanta is “wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the chop. For me, that’s the end of the story,” the Indigenous community proceeded to pull out their earrings and lather Vaseline on their faces in preparation for a vicious beatdown—verbal or otherwise.
Crystal EchoHawk, executive director and founder of IllumiNative, said the “Tomahawk chop” is both “racist” and “dehumanizing” for Native people and that the team needs to remove it. EchoHawk said the imagery used by the Braves and other sports teams has created toxic and harmful stereotypes of Native Americans. A lot of the imagery originated in Hollywood and doesn’t accurately represent Native people or culture, she said.
“There’s zero rationale for the team to hold on to this any longer,” EchoHawk said. “I think it says that the franchise is very much a part of perpetuating and condoning racism full stop.”
On Wednesday, Fawn Sharp, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, jumped into the fray and let freedom ring.
“The name ‘Braves,’ the tomahawk adorning the team’s uniform, and the ‘tomahawk chop’ that the team exhorts its fans to perform at home games are meant to depict and caricature not just one tribal community but all Native people, and that is certainly how baseball fans and Native people everywhere interpret them,” Sharp said in a statement. “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 calls on the team to follow the example set by the Cleveland Guardians, and we call on Major League Baseball and the FOX Broadcasting Company to refrain from showing the ‘tomahawk chop’ when it is performed during the nationally televised World Series games in Atlanta.”
Listen, if there’s one thing white people don’t play about it, it’s racism—well, that and Friends. But since the Guardians have already set a precedent in MLB, there’s at least a small glimmer of hope that the Tomahawk Chop will one day become a distant memory. I just don’t believe it will be anytime soon. Because where there’s a white will, there’s a white way. And if there’s anything they hate to disrupt, it’s uprooting traditions that come at the expense of marginalized communities.