Chop away: Atlanta baseball should move on from its namesake

Celebrating in glory should have come without the traditions that contradict the spirit of the city.

Opinion by Benjamin Royer, Valley Life Editor

The Atlanta Braves should retire their team name and "the chop" as well. (Graphic by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

The Atlanta Braves may have just won the World Series, but the racist branding behind both their name and chant should be left behind following the franchise’s first hoisting of the Commissioner’s Trophy since 1995.

Within Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, a sellout crowd of 41,084 fans rises to stand on their feet. Any fan of Major League Baseball knows the tension and excitement that a postseason game brings, especially in the World Series. However, the rallying cry of “the chop” in which Braves’ fans root and chat for their team is downright wrong and so is the name of the “Braves” to begin with.

Atlanta baseball fans use “the chop” to hype up their team in important moments of the ballgame. It is a simple act of raising your arm and moving it up and down mixed with the sounds of “Oh” being echoed over and over again. The chant both mocks Native American culture and reiterates the negation of historical pretext for the city of Atlanta. In the 1830’s, Native Americans were pushed out of Georgia by the United States military and the actions of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. It was more than evident that the relationship between Native Americans and the state of Georgia’s relationship was already fractured before the franchise relocated from its previous home of Milwaukee to Atlanta. Now 55 years later, the Braves are still the name representing Atlanta Baseball despite decades of time to change the image of the team. The time is now to change this all for the better good.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred disagrees with this idea.

“The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community,” said Manfred according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including the Chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”

With this statement, the commissioner completely disregards the fact that the Native American community is not okay with the chant, nor the name of the Braves. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is spearheading the effort to remove the mascot and “chop” from Atlanta’s baseball team’s identity. The group of tribal organizations, governments and communities is working together to create a better future to represent their interests.

In disagreement with Manfred, the NCAI released a statement that opposes his take on the issue.

“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,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp in a statement on the organization’s website. “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.”

This statement is right and not only does it express the reaction from the Native American community, it also gives the commissioner a chance to retract his statement. This should be the turning point in the name change and retiring of the chop.

MLB has already made a name change this past season, with the Cleveland Indians retiring their team name in favor of the Guardians. This change is set to take place soon, with the team previously stating that the official rebranding as the Guardians would come after the 2021 season.

Atlanta deserves better. It is a city of soul, culture and a strong sports history. Removing the name of the Braves from the city’s identity would allow for a new start.

Working with Native Americans to embrace the culture in a proper way could make for a memorable reset for the fan experiences at Truist Park.