Foam tomahawks and the “Tomahawk Chant” are a hallmark of Atlanta Braves games, but for Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the usual paraphernalia was kept to a minimum after Native American pitcher Ryan Helsley complained that it was a misrepresentation of Native American culture.
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Cardinals pitcher Helsley is a member of the Cherokee tribe, and ahead of the National League Division Series, he told the St. Louis Dispatch that the depiction was “a disappointment.”
“[It] just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots.”
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In response to these remarks, the chant was discouraged and foam tomahawks were not placed in every seat like usual on October 9th.
The Braves released a statement about the situation ahead of the game expressing their alleged desire to evolve their brand.
“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today. Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game.
As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.”
Helsley was told about the decision ahead of the game and expressed his gratitude to ESPN.
“I think they’re taking the right steps. I think it’s a positive thing. Fans might not like it, but maybe they can reflect back on it and see it was a good move.”