HOUSTON – âIt’s important to understand that we have 30 markets across the country. They are not all the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. “
Those were the words of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday before the World Series opener between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros. He followed that whopper with another incredibly misinformed deduction, a summary dismissal of the case.
âThe Native American community in this region fully supports the Braves program, including the [tomahawk] chop. For me, this is kind of the end of the story, âcontinued Manfred. âIn this market, we take the Amerindian community into account.
As a native of the nation’s capital, it’s a refrain I’ve heard many times before. In this case, another Boston team that was moved on to a nickname that was ultimately considered improper – and the team pulled it off after decades.
But the case of the Atlanta baseball team is one of the most nuanced.
Without getting too far into a battle of good or bad, and quite frankly in 2021 people of color are tired of having to explain how things like portrayal correlate with violence and prejudice in communities. Basically, when people are caricatured in a routine manner, it is a form of violence that manifests itself in other ways that go far beyond dignity.
Short Version: Everyone has heard of Gabby Petito, the young white woman who went missing in a Wyoming national park last month. You probably don’t know that over 700 Indigenous people have gone missing in this state in the past 10 years. A report from the Wyoming Indigenous Missing and Murdered Task Force (think it’s even one thing) says 85% were children and 57% were women.
There is a direct correlation between racist images and actual violence.
We don’t need to issue a warning rant about the team’s move to Cobb County as an indication of who they really cared from a fan base perspective. You can ask any black man in Georgia what they think about it and you will immediately know that they felt abandoned. But let’s just follow the basic logic and the evolution of the sport in our time, like the last few years, five years, and it’s pretty easy to see that the team has to go through some drastic changes that aren’t particularly drastic in 2021. .
NASCAR dropped the Confederate flags last year. The Washington football team, for all of its other weird issues, has at least managed to remove a racist nickname from its brand. These were examples of open hostility to marginalized people. MLB has self-corrected when it comes to the Cleveland Indians, and we have once again moved closer to what’s right.
The team were asked to stop using the racist cartoon of Chief Wahoo, a move they allowed the team to take a few seasons to implement for whatever reason, and the city responded well. This sparked a larger discussion about whether we should use Native American humanity as mascots (as opposed to proper imagery, see: Seattle Seahawks). Most reasonable people have said no, and next year it will be the Cleveland Guardians.
You kind of said to yourself, OK! We are getting somewhere. The ‘actually it’s not racist’ memes with people dressed in red were understood for what they really meant, and it seemed our collective consciousness understood, beyond everything: Yeah, we don’t. quite simply more that.
Presumably, we are far from 1991, where The New York Times wrote this headline: Indians demonstrate in front of the dome. In this story, then-commissioner Fay Vincent is at least honest about the effort he’s not prepared to make. The event took place outside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, where the Twins were playingâ¦ the Braves for the World Series.
âIt’s inappropriate to deal with it now,â said Vincent revealingly. âTelling 57,000 people to change is beyond my ability. “
Which brings us to the Braves. They exist right on the inappropriate line that most reasonable people would call “laid back.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that dimming your lights and playing a version of a menacing war song is just plain lame, let alone out of your pocket in these times. Cutting off your arm, a pantomime of what I’m guessing is a fighting stance, is so irrelevant that you have to purposely ignore it all to think it’s cool.
The logic to justify this works backwards and also speaks for itself. Take, for example, Barrett Sallee. He writes about college football for CBS Sports and lives in Smyrna, Georgia, according to his Twitter account. Before the series, he tweeted this.
âPSA: If you plan to write articles on the chop and related topics associated with the Atlanta Braves, research the organization’s relationship with Native Americans and, in particular, the eastern band of Cherokee Indians. Don’t just do takes, âhe wrote, referring to a team-sponsored page highlighting work done with a Native American tribe, fromâ¦ this year.
If the topic weren’t so serious it would be one of the most laughable topics I’ve ever seen. The “I have some [insert minority here] friends âhas long been understood as ludicrous in terms of all that makes sense. Obviously, we’re all smarter than that now. National Congress of American Indians agrees.
But the process of filming the very video that the Braves use as a social guarantee didn’t exactly go smoothly. The short film, which features the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), which the team page curiously claims to be “the largest federally recognized tribe in our region,” was almost immediately ineffective in terms of real education.
âIt was just as the WFT announced their change and I selfishly wanted to be involved and see if I could help make sure we weren’t embarrassed. I went home for the shoot, signed the consent, chatted with their crew and felt pretty good about it, âNatalie Welch said Wednesday. Originally from Cherokee, North Carolina, she is an EBCI Fellow and Assistant Professor of Sports Management at Linfield University in Oregon. âWhen the video came out, I immediately felt drained. There were so many fans who just replied âChop on! Or he fell on deaf ears completely. It was like a pass for them to continue to appropriate and perpetuate racism. I watched our leader continue to brag about the relationship and the team did a T-shirt fundraiser for our language immersion school. It’s hard to argue with these benefits, but for me it’s not worth my tribe to enjoy it when other tribes don’t and it keeps the cycle of oppression going on for other tribes, communities and indigenous individuals.
What makes him particularly curious is that just like Cleveland, who had the Spiders, Atlanta has an option there that even allows them to maintain their seemingly so valuable branding. Just name him Henry Louis Aaron, the greatest player in franchise history and arguably the greatest player in MLB history. The Atlanta Hammers.
It’s a no-brainer, and a better name overall. But, well, privilege and reluctance make people in power say things like, you’ve âdone a phenomenal job with the Native American community,â like that’s even one thing. The reason we’re here to start is because absolutely no one has done a good job with the plethora of different Indigenous Nations and communities FOR CENTURIES.
âThe ‘American community’ paints a big picture and groups us all into one category, much like what mascots do. There are 574 independent sovereign nations that have treaties with the United States and each tribe has its own culture, governance and situation, âsaid Welch, 34. âWe all come together in this continuous erasure and marginalization of our unique tribes and nations, not to mention individuals with different lifestyles. There are tribes that are very profitable and self-sufficient when there are d ‘others who are like Third World countries right here in the United States. “
The chop must go, the vocals are deplorable and all of it is racist, even if the name isn’t an insult. All of these things can be true. But when you put the burden of proof of progress on baseball, America’s oldest and whitest sport, that’s what you get.
âIt’s funny that there are always people who say to themselves ‘this is our heritage!’ and what is it, perhaps a hundred-year-old tradition? What about the heritage and history of my tribe or other indigenous peoples in this country? I see it as an extension of white supremacy, âWelch said. âThe conviction that we have this and that it is ours and that it is our sacred and safe space which must not be touched. I also want to point out that I am a sports fan, even an Atlanta fan. I would much prefer to celebrate the positive things that are happening in our community, we have a really good sense of humor. It’s deeply personal with impacts that I can’t even fully explain.
If MLB is so interested in honoring history in its local communities, it could really lean on it. Cobb County Crackers sound pretty precise.