Braves say they won’t change name but studying chop chant
Atlanta — The Atlanta Braves say they have no plans to follow the lead of the NFL’s Washington Redskins and change their team name.
“We will always be the Atlanta Braves,” the team said in a letter to season ticket holders on Friday. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.
The tomahawk chop chant used by Braves fans is under review, however.
The team said in the letter it is seeking input from the Native American community, fans, players and former players as it examines the fan experience, including the chant.
The Redskins announced Monday they will change their name and Indian head logo.
The Braves say they have established a “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and formed a Native American Working Group.
The name came with the team on its move from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. The name was adopted in 1912, when the team was based in Boston.
“Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary,” the team said in the letter.
Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said in a statement the EBCI has explored “a potential partnership” with the Braves following discussions “about the cultural sensitivity” of the chant.
“As a people proud of our own identity, we do not support cultural appropriation or any disrespectful representation of Native nations,” Sneed said. “We believe that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change. As such, we have committed to working with the Atlanta Braves as they explore opportunities to represent Native Nations more appropriately.”
Sneed said he looks forward to building a relationship with the Braves “to present a model for how other professional sports teams can work with Native Nations in a respectful and constructive manner.”
Sneed’s statement made no reference to the team name.
The tomahawk chop has been popular with fans since the early 1990s. The team often distributes red foam tomahawk cutouts used by fans who “chop” during the chant.
The chant caused a stir in last year’s NL Division Series. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, said he found the chant insulting. The Braves did not distribute the red foam cutouts before the decisive Game 5 of the series, won by the Cardinals, “out of respect for the concerns” expressed by Helsley.
The Braves then said they would continue to examine the issue after the season, and that process continues.
In the letter, the team said the chant “continues to inspire our players on the field.”
“With that in mind, 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.”