The Atlanta Braves will reportedly hold off distributing foam tomahawks during Wednesday’s elimination Game 5 versus St. Louis after complaints from Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley.
Helsley, born in in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and a member of Cherokee Nation, voiced his displeasure over the team’s iconic token this past weekend, saying it’s ‘disrespectful’ to Native Americans and said he believes it ‘depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual.’
The team said they will not play the chant while Helsley is in the game either.
Braves fans have been doing the tomahawk chop since 1991 when the team signed former Florida State Seminoles football superstar Deion Sanders.
Florida State University has featured the tomahawk chop at sporting events since 1984, as the school's band has included the chop itself in their musical ‘war chants’. The tomahawk chop and Chief Osceola mascot have been greatly symbolic to its football team, who is one of the most recognizable namesakes in college football history.
The school has often steered clear of any political reprimand because of the university’s close ties with Seminole tribes in the state, who have reportedly long supported the school’s use of Native American derived branding.
The MLB has often been in the crosshairs of various activist groups for similar reasons because of the infamous former Cleveland Indians mascot 'Chief Wahoo’, who many believed was an offensive racial caricature.
The Indians officially did away with the logo after the 2018 season, which used to be featured on the team's hat and arm patches.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in February that the Braves had 'taken steps to take out the Tomahawk Chop', although the team hasn't made any concrete plans to doing so besides the response prior to Wednesday's Game 5.