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Native American tribe responds to Braves' talks on Tomahawk Chop, team name

Their hope is to have Native Americans portrayed appropriately.

ATLANTA —

The Atlanta Braves aren't changing their mascot. But the Tomahawk Chop may be out.

As the fight against social injustice grows stronger, brands and teams have been re-evaluating names. On Monday, the Washington Redskins officially announced they will be changing their name and logo. They have not revealed a new mascot.

In baseball, the Cleveland Indians are considering a change, but the Braves have already made their decision.

In an email to season ticket holders on July 10, Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk and team president Derek Schiller said they have spoken with Native American groups and will remain the Atlanta Braves. However, they will continue to evaluate the Tomahawk Chop.

"The Atlanta Braves honors, respects and values the Native American community. As an organization, we have always drawn strength from our diversity and respect for everyone. That will never change," the email states.

"We have had an active and supportive relationship with the Native American community for many years. Last fall, we furthered this relationship and pledged to meet and listen to Native American and tribal leaders from many areas, including the Eastern Band of the Cherokees (EBCI) in North Carolina," int continues. "As a result, we formed a cultural relationship with the EBCI and have also formed a Native American Working Group with a diverse collection of other tribal leaders to collaborate on matters related to culture, education, outreach, and recognition on an on-going basis."

"Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary," it said. "We will always be the Atlanta Braves.

"As it relates to the fan experience, including the chop, it is one of the many issues that we are working through with the advisory group."

Primary Chief of the EBCI, Richard Sneed, mentioned in the Braves' statement, sent his own statement to 11Alive saying the EBCI began a partnership with the Braves and will give their input on how to represent Native Americans respectfully. The letter reads, in part:

"The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been exploring a potential partnership with the Atlanta Braves for several months following discussions about the cultural sensitivity of the Braves’ Tomahawk Chop.  As a people proud of our own identity, we do not support cultural appropriation or any disrespectful representation of Native nations. We believe that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change. As such, we have committed to working with the Atlanta Braves as they explore opportunities to represent Native Nations more appropriately.  I applaud the Braves’ willingness to engage in this effort and look forward to continuing to build the relationship the EBCI shares with them to present a model for how other professional sports teams can work with Native Nations in a respectful and constructive manner."

We asked Sneed's spokesperson if that meant they supported a ban of the Tomahawk Chop, but did not receive an immediate response. 

The Tomahawk Chop began when Florida State alum Deion Sanders joined the team in the 90s, and it has since become a popular fan tradition. During the 2019 NLDS, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley called out the Braves after playing in Atlanta, calling the chop "disrespectful." Helsley is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Braves manager Brian Snitker, who has been with the organization for several decades as a player and manager, agreed with the front office's statement on the team name and chop.

"I'll leave all that stuff up to them and how they handle it. And I think it's up to the fan base when they do get back into the ballpark how they handle all that," Snitker said. 

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