The Atlanta Braves will not be changing their name. The “Tomahawk Chop” chant however, may be on the chopping block.
In a statement from the organization, the team said it “honors, respects and values the Native American community,” adding that “as an organization, we have always drawn strength from our diversity and respect for everyone. That will never change.”
But amid a national conversation about racially insensitive logos and monikers, the team said it remains committed to its 108-year-old name.
Through its conversations with Native American and tribal leaders, the team said, “changing the name 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.”
A time of change
Recent racially-charged events across America, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have intensified the spotlight on sports franchises and their respective names. The NFL’s Washington, DC, franchise decided to change its Redskins name and logo after what the team called a “thorough review.”
Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians are among the highest-profile organizations facing calls for change.
But while the Braves will be sticking with the name they have had since 1912 in Boston – through their move to Milwaukee in 1953 and to Atlanta in 1966 – the Georgia sun may soon be setting on the team’s trademark “Tomahawk Chop.”
“As it relates to the fan experience, including the chop, it is one of the many issues that we are working through with the advisory group,” the team said in its statement. “We are continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our fans, players, and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience.”
The chant and chop motion burst onto the scene in Tallahassee, Florida, as a Florida State Seminoles college cheer. But when Deion Sanders – a future NFL Hall of Famer and former three-sport start at FSU – became a Brave in 1991, he seamlessly introduced the pigskin chant to a baseball audience in Atlanta.
“The chop was popularized by our fans when Deion Sanders joined our team and it continues to inspire our players on the field,” noted the Braves.
During Sanders’ time in Atlanta, the Braves were postseason staples, capturing the NL West division each season from 1991-1993, the start of a streak of division crowns that would run uninterrupted from 1995 until 2006. The Braves have won 17 National League pennants and three World Series championships, the most recent coming in 1995 at the expense of the Cleveland Indians.