As the Braves took on the Nationals at Turner Field on Sunday evening, one of the signature symbols of the team’s “Tomahawk Chop” celebration, a symbol of their faithful fan base, struck a nerve with some Native Americans.
The Washington Post reports that two Navajo leaders have called for a halt to the “Tomahawk Chop” before games and called it “dehumanizing” and “racist.”
“There are no true ‘tomahawk chop’ fans. Instead, it’s intended to give the perception of tribe loyalty when, in fact, it’s racially charged,” Gerald Essig, chair of the Commission on the Status of Native Americans and a hereditary chieftain of the Navajo tribe in Arizona, told the Post.
Jeff Prescott, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents and a member of the Great Plains Tribal Youth Council, agreed.
“[It] is racist and a form of demeaning,” Prescott told the Post. “It gives the false appearance of a greater tribal loyalty than might be there.”
Native Americans protest in front of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 7, 2011. Kevin W. Lewis / REUTERS File
The “Tomahawk Chop” has long been celebrated among Braves fans as a sign of their devotion to the team, and it’s been part of the team’s “Tomahawk” rallying cry for decades.
The “Tomahawk Chop” was originally devised by late Braves announcer Terry “Hawk” Harrelson during the 1987 World Series. It was inspired by the notorious sound made by humping chickens, and it’s a call now heard at big league baseball games on a regular basis.
Because of their dissatisfaction with the name and mascot of the team, some Native Americans protested the Braves’ use of the “Tomahawk Chop” in front of the team’s Atlanta home field ahead of a World Series game. During Game 7 of the 1997 Series, the Atlanta Braves rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the title. The World Series championship was the Braves’ last in Atlanta before moving to the suburbs of Atlanta in the 1990s.
Instead of boos and jeers, the fans in attendance showered the players with standing ovations, chanting “Bring ’em back! Bring ’em back!” and making “Tomahawk Chop” signs.
The team has been a visible part of Atlanta’s African-American culture for generations and, because of Atlanta’s strong history of civil rights activism, plans to construct a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. outside the stadium.
The Braves are considered one of the best in baseball, boasting some of the best players in the majors.
Alex Leary is a sports reporter for Fox News Channel. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexLearyFNC