The 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves resumes Friday night at Truist Park in Atlanta. If recent times are any indication, the so-called “chop tomahawk”, the gesture that Braves fans make during games, is sure to have as much presence throughout the night as the players themselves. .
Ahead of Tuesday’s opening game, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred defended Atlanta’s continued use of their name and the chop, noting that Native Americans in the area agreed with both. Not surprisingly, Manfred’s comments have since come under fire from Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indian, which released a statement on Wednesday urging Fox not to release the chop during the World Series Games. 3-5 this weekend.
We thought it might be helpful to feature an abbreviated timeline documenting notable points in the history of the Chop, as well as the pullback against the Chop that has been around from the start.
July 31, 1991
The date we’ll start this subtitle with is actually mid-October, when the New York Times published an article by Dave Anderson chronicling the rise in popularity of the chop in the context of Atlanta’s 1991 National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the article, Anderson noted that “the chop and singing didn’t start when the Pirates were here before.” For reference, the Pirates played a four-game set in Atlanta from July 29-31. This means that the chop became commonplace at Braves games throughout August and September.
Lest anyone thinks the chop was introduced without recoil, Anderson quoted Jim Schultz, then the Braves’ public relations manager.
“We have had a few complaints that the tomahawk is demeaning to Native Americans,” Schultz said. “But we see it as a proud expression of unification and family.”
The Braves had only retired the mascot “Chief Noc-A-Homa”, originally played by non-Native Americans, a few years earlier. It is not known whether Schultz and the franchise considered this character to be a “proud expression of unification and family as well.” (The character “Noc-A-Homa” had been criticized since at least the early 1970s.)
Aug 9, 1991
Just over a week after the Pirates left the city, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about Carolyn King, organist at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Journalist Terence Moore spoke about how King might inspire Brave fans to “[chop] the air of the right hand “by playing the A and G keys of the organ.
Tradition has it that Deion Sanders, who attended Florida State University, brought the chop to the Braves games. King, however, pushed back on that account. She told Moore that she started playing the chop “about two years ago”, or during the 1989 season. (She later claimed that she was unaware that Sanders had gone to FSU, or that “Tomahawk Chop” was their fight song.) “She said” only a few people would go for it “before the summer of 1991.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution revisited King’s role in introducing the chop when she announced her retirement in 2004. King said she was a “young person” and did not “understand. [her] role politically. “
CBS broadcast of World Series game shed light on protests outside the Minneapolis Metrodome by Native Americans and civil rights activists who “came to protest against what they call stereotypical, warlike portrayal. Native Americans, ”according to host Pat O ‘Brien. He added that such behavior is more evident, according to activists, when it comes to “fans wearing war paint and Indian headdresses and performing the now famous ‘chop Tomahawk'”.
The CBS show then featured brief interviews with Bill Means, the national director of the American Indian Movement; Fay Vincent, then commissioner of the MLB; then the president of the Braves Stan Kasten. While Vincent recognized the need to bring up any subject whenever there is a “large group of Americans who are concerned about something in baseball,” Kasten evaded O’Brien’s inquiries. saying, “Like all the other questions on the subject, we’re going to wait for any discussion until the end of the series. At the moment, we’re going to just focus on baseball the rest of the week.”
October 5, 2019
We are jumping decades ahead because history has largely remained the same during the interim period. The Braves continued to use and encourage the chop despite comments from Native American communities and activists about the dehumanizing nature of the act.
The Braves heard the message again in October 2019. This time it was delivered by St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsey in the middle of a playoff series.
Helsey, a member of the Cherokee Nation, criticized the chop after the series opener. “I think this is a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” he said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He just portrays them as a caveman type person who is not intellectual.
“They are much more than that. I’m not the one offended by this whole mascot thing. I am not. This is the misconception of us Native Americans and the way we’re seen that way, or used as mascots. Redskins and stuff like that. “
The Braves’ response was to discourage the chop during the series – but only when Helsey was throwing.
Jul 21, 2020
Less than a year after Helsey made his objections known, the Braves weighed in complete disavowal after the Washington football team changed its name. (The Braves were still unwilling to change their name or imagery, although Cleveland announced plans to change its name from Indians to Guardians earlier this year.)
“At the moment, those discussions are still ongoing,” team president and CEO Derek Schiller told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a topic that deserves a lot of debate and a lot of discussion and a lot of thought, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
It’s unclear whether the Braves gave the topic the debate, discussion, and thoughtfulness that Schiller felt the topic deserved. Obviously the chop is still in strong rotation despite the team taking a “softer” approach by providing only a drumbeat and visual aids around the stadium.
The Braves have since formed a “Native American task force” and partnered with the eastern band of the Cherokee Indians, apparently the regional group Manfred referred to in his comments. What Manfred did not disclose is that the Eastern Band casino is a corporate sponsor of the Braves, giving them a vested interest in the franchise as a business partner.
Even then, the Eastern Band criticized the Braves’ use of the “war song” music the team played during the chop, suggesting that they weren’t quite on board either. Conductor Richard Sneed said the music that accompanied it was “so stereotypical, like old school Hollywood.” Come on guys, we’re in 2020. Let’s move on. Find something else.
October 26, 2021
This takes us back to the present day and Manfred’s comments on the day the Braves first appeared at the World Series since 1999.
“The Native American community in this region fully supports the Braves program, including the chop,” said Manfred, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In this market, we take the Native American community into account.… In Atlanta, they did a great job with Native Americans. The Native American community is the largest group. important in deciding whether this is appropriate or not. “
As noted above, the National Congress of American Indian issued a statement that disagreed with Manfred’s claim. The NCAI has also asked Fox, the broadcaster of the World Series, to refrain from highlighting fans who chop during games.