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Tomahawk Chop debate resurfaces as Braves play World Series

The Vice-Chairman of the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns shares his perspective.

ATLANTA — As the Braves return to Atlanta for the World Series, more conversation is taking place surrounding the controversial Tomahawk Chop gesture. 

Previously, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has defended the Braves name and fan celebration with the Tomahawk Chop. 

"The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American Community," Manfred said. "They [Native Americans] are wholly supportive of the Braves programming including the Chop." 

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) released a statement Wednesday night rejecting the commissioner's comment. In a tweet, the NCAI reiterated "its longstanding opposition" to the Atlanta Braves mascot and Tomahawk Chop.

In part, the statement read, "Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred stated that the question of whether the ‘Braves’ mascot and ‘Tomahawk Chop’ fan ritual are offensive to Native people is only a local issue. He similarly asserted the league does ‘not market our game on a nationwide basis.’ Nothing could be further from the truth." 

RELATED: Has the Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop movement officially struck out?

Vice-Chairman of the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns Donald Kirkland also weighed in. He said the Braves brought in their organization and state tribes to get their thoughts and understand how they feel about the chop. Kirkland said there hasn't been any push-back by local tribes over the gesture. 

"We've asked those leaders [of tribes in Georgia] to go back to their tribes and speak with them and solicit feedback on the Braves name and on the chop," Kirkland said. "And we followed that up several times, and we haven't received any negative feedback from tribes in Georgia. They've been very supportive, actually." 

Kirkland added the Tomahawk Chop is done in big moments and typically unifies the crowd in a positive experience. He also said that comparing the team name changes in Cleveland and Washington D.C. is not the same here in Atlanta. 

"I think the situation with the Atlanta Braves is very different than those other organizations. I think the Braves 'the chop' and comparing that to the Washington Redskins are apples and oranges," he said. "The tribes in Georgia have been very supportive and very thankful for that partnership. And again, some of the things that they've been able to accomplish and the things that the Braves have helped them really find a great way to partner and ensure that there's a win for everybody."

Kirkland said that partnership between the Braves and local tribes is an important part of the story that isn't being told. He added that most of the "outrage" is not from tribes in Georgia but outside organizations and groups. 

"I would say, look at what they're doing for Native Americans in their region and look at the places that you're hearing outrage because that's not from tribes in Georgia," he said. 

Kirkland also said the Braves have shown their willingness to work with tribes in Georgia by listening and facilitating a dialogue between them.

"I think that could go a long way in changing and showing... the benefits that Native Americans are seeing and that working relationship with the organization," he said. 

According to the MLB's website, the franchise became known as the Braves for the first time in 1912. After new ownership, the Braves changed its name to the Boston Bees for a few seasons. The Braves name was readopted in 1941 and kept the name while it relocated to Milwaukee and Atlanta. 


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