In the wake of comments made by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred this week about the Atlanta Braves mascot, the National Congress Of American Indians has issued a firm response.
With the 2021 World Series getting underway on Tuesday, Manfred spoke with reporters and fielded questions regarding Atlanta’s mascot and the “tomahawk chop,” a popular fan celebration that has been called insensitive by multiple Native American groups. The MLB commissioner defended the organization on both accounts, saying that the Braves have done “a phenomenal job with the Native American community.”
“It’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country,” Manfred added, per The Athletic. “They aren’t all the same. … 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.
“We don’t market our game on a nationwide basis. Ours is an everyday game,” he continued. “You’ve gotta sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences between the regions in terms of how the teams are marketed.”
Manfred’s remarks were met with a mixed response, but the strongest counter came on Wednesday from the National Congress Of American Indians (NCAI). The organization, which has been outspokenly against Atlanta’s nickname and “The Chop” in the past, issued a stern response to the MLB commissioner, saying that his comments were far from the truth.
“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…” the statement from NCAI President Fawn Sharp read.
“… Native people are not mascots, and degrading rituals like the ‘tomahawk chop’ that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society. NCAI calls on the team to follow the example set by the Cleveland Guardians, and we call on Major League Baseball and the FOX Broadcasting Company to refrain from showing the ‘tomahawk chop’ when its performed during the nationally televised World Series games in Atlanta.”
Here’s the full statement from the National Congress of American Indians, via The Athletic’s Evan Drellich:
National Congress of American Indians responds to Rob Manfred’s assertions about the Braves and the tomahawk chop: "Nothing could be further from the truth.” pic.twitter.com/CjzSzt56sV
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) October 27, 2021
The sports world has already seen a handful of organizations switch mascots in order to leave behind offensive characterizations of Native Americans. Just earlier this year, the Cleveland Indians announced that they would be changing their name to the Guardians.
The Braves haven’t indicated that they plan to change their name anytime soon and based on Manfred’s recent remarks, he won’t force them too. That will surely lead to additional backlash from Native American groups and others that believe the mascot to be offensive.