Should Braves change their name? Biden administration weighs in

The White House commented on the Atlanta Braves team name and the “tomahawk chop” during the team’s visit on Monday to celebrate their World Series win in 2021.

On Monday, Sept. 26, the Atlanta Braves visited the White House to celebrate their World Series win in 2021. During the visit, they presented President Joe Biden with a custom Braves jersey, as has become tradition for every sports team that visits the White House after a championship win.

In a press conference, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about whether she or President Biden had any thoughts on the Braves’ team name and the fan’s use of the “Tomahawk chop.”

White House comments on Braves team name, ‘tomahawk chop’

“We believe that it’s important to have this conversation,” said Jean-Pierre. “Native American and Indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation. That is something the President believes, that is something that this administration believes, and he has consistently emphasized that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You hear that often from this President. The same is true here and we should listen to Native American and Indigenous people who are the most impacted by this.”

The “tomahawk chop” is a controversial chant that is used at Braves home games. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred defended the chant and team name, saying that “the Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the chop.”

Shortly after Manfred’s comments, National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp released a statement, via the organization’s official website:

“…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,” said Sharp. “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.”

Back in 2020, the Washington NFL franchise changed their name from the Redskins to the Washington Football Team. The latter name was a placeholder before they unveiled their new name, the Commanders, ahead of the 2022 season.

The Cleveland MLB franchise moved on from their Indians team name and changed it to the Guardians ahead of this season. The team’s controversial mascot, “Chief Wahoo,” was removed from their uniforms ahead of the 2019 season.

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