Monday, August 15 2022

The Atlanta Braves have used Native American imagery in many different ways since the franchise moved to Georgia in 1966.

Long before the tomahawk chop that has spurred discussion this postseason, the Braves had a live Indian mascot in the 1970s named Chief Noc-A-Homa, who had a teepee beyond the outfield wall at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.

The team retired the chief in 1986. And in 1990, changed its primary logo to its current one, which features the team nickname in script along with an image of a tomahawk.

The tomahawk chop first made its appearance at Braves games in late 1991.

During the 1991 National League championship series between the Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Times referred to the new craze as “the Braves’ Tomahawk Phenomenon.”

Atlanta Braves fans do the tomahawk chop during an April game against the Philadelphia Phillies.Atlanta Braves fans do the tomahawk chop during an April game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Atlanta Braves fans do the tomahawk chop during an April game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

How did it get started? Popular lore traces its origin to when former Florida State football star Deion Sanders joined the Braves.

Florida State began doing its “war chant” in 1984 during a game against Auburn. And a group of FSU fans apparently began using the chant when Sanders came to the plate.

However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier that year the music that accompanied the chant was improvised by Braves organist Carolyn King.

The chop gained even greater notoriety when the Braves went on to play the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series.

CBS Sports even produced a segment on the network’s pregame show about the backlash to the chop from Native American groups.

The chop continued virtually unchallenged until the 2019 playoffs, when the Braves faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Cards relief pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, spoke out against the chop.

“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that.”

The Braves responded by not giving out foam tomahawks to fans during the series and not playing the chant over the loudspeakers.

Atlanta’s season ended with a loss to St. Louis, but the chop has returned to the ballpark since.

With the Braves returning to the World Series for the first time since 1999, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked before Game 1 about the appropriateness of the chop.

“The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop,” he said. However a day later, the National Congress of American Indians countered that Native American mascots and rituals such as the chop “have no place in American society.”

Thirty years ago this week, before Game 1 of the 1991 World Series between Atlanta and the Twins, some 800 people protested the chop outside the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Although nothing much changed, they did get the attention of at least one prominent fan – actress Jane Fonda, then engaged to Ted Turner, who owned the team. “I’m sorry it offends them and I’m not going to do it anymore,” she said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Braves’ tomahawk chop: History of Atlanta’s controversial cheer

Source: Yahoo Sports

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