What did President Biden say about the Atlanta Braves’ tomahawk chop?
With the reigning World Series champions visit to the White House on Monday, President Biden was asked to address the team’s name and famous “tomahawk chop”
Following the visit to the White House to meet the President by the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked by a member of the press to comment on the President’s position on the team’s name and famous “tomahawk chop”.
Ms Jean-Pierre said, “We believe that it’s important to have this conversation and Native American and indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation.”
“That is something that 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.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has also been asked to comment on these issues in the past and he indicated that he was much of a similar mindset. So does this signal the end of the Braves on the horizon? Well, not exactly.
If the Native American voices are indeed at the center of this conversation, then the Braves are pretty well ring-fenced given that the local Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who are based near Atlanta, have expressed that they are wholly supportive of the Atlanta Braves and the gesture of the tomahawk chop.
According to Manfred, “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”
Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, also dumps cold water on the idea, saying, “I’m not offended by somebody waving their arm at a sports game. I’m just not, If somebody is, that’s their prerogative, it’s their right. They can be offended.… I don’t know very many, maybe one or two, from my tribe who say, ‘Yeah, I don’t like that.’”
The gesture was invented by the Florida State University football fans in the late seventies and early eighties, principally to accompany the school’s theme of a Seminole warrior riding out on a horse and throwing a spear into the 50-yard line as part of the pre-game buildup. Both symbols, and indeed the use of the Seminole as a mascot, were co-designed and approved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Since then, the gesture has been adopted by virtually every team who uses Native American imagery, including the Guardians, formerly the Indians, in MLB. In the NFL, both the Washington Commanders, formerly Redskins, and the Kansas City Chiefs have used the gesture either in the past or currently. All of these programs encountered stiff criticism.
The principal difference in these cases are that none of these had the support of any of the local Native American peoples within their home markets. In Cleveland, Washington, and Kansas City, local tribal officials expressed a strong dislike, or at the very least a preference for change, when it comes to the use of Native images or gestures.
In the case of both Florida State and Atlanta, they have the full support of the local tribal officials as well as the general Native American population. And while it most certainly won’t be, in a just world, that should be the end of the argument.