With the Atlanta Braves hosting the first two NLDS games against the St. Louis Cardinals, the echo of the Tomahawk Chop reverberated around SunTrust Park and through television broadcasts during the games.
The chant has been subject to criticism before, and the latest is now coming from Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley.
Helsley, 25, is a member of the Cherokee nation and one of few Native Americans in the majors. His grandfather was full-blooded Cherokee, and Helsley can trace his lineage to ancestors forced to march on the Trail of Tears.
The right-hander pitched in Game 1 — allowing a hit and recording an out — and offered his perspective of the chant following the game to the St. Louis Dispatch.
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or native Americans in general,” he said. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that.
It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”
Helsley continued that it was “disrespectful,” and said that he researched the chant and found it interesting that despite attempts to change or eliminate the chant, it continues.
In February, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Washington Post that the Braves have “taken steps to take out the tomahawk chop,” yet the stadium still plays music and hands out red foam tomahawks to encourage it.
“It’s everywhere,” Helsley said. “I feel like there are a lot of other things they could use as mascots. Using our heritage as a mascot, it isn’t the best thing. There have been schools who in the past 20, 30 years have changed their mascots. I don’t see why professional teams are so far behind on that.”