Prior to the first game of the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros on Tuesday, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the press and answered questions about the Braves name, chant, and fans doing the “tomahawk chop” at home games in Atlanta.
Manfred defended the Atlanta baseball club. He said the Atlanta team officials have handled the local Native American community in a respectful way.
“It’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country. They’re not all the same,” Manfred said. “The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, taking into account the Native American community, it works.”
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) does not agree with Manfred.
On Wednesday, the largest national American Indian organization in the country responded with the following statement:
“Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred stated that the question of whether the ‘Braves’ mascot and ‘tomahawk chop’ fan ritual are offensive to Native people is only a local issue. He similarly asserted the league does ‘not market our game on a nationwide basis.’
Nothing could be further from the truth. Major League Baseball is a global brand, it markets its World Series nationally and internationally, and the games played in Atlanta this weekend will be viewed by tens of millions of fans across the country and around the world.
Meanwhile, 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,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said.
“Consequently, the league and team have an obligation to genuinely listen to Tribal Nations and leaders across the United States about how the team’s mascot impacts them. NCAI, a consensus-based congress composed of hundreds of Tribal Nations from every region of this country, has made its categorical opposition to Native ‘themed’ mascots abundantly clear to sports teams, schools, and the general public for more than five decades. 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," Sharp continued.