OPINION: Why the Tomahawk Chop isn’t Offensive

November 8, 2019

As a lifelong Braves fan, I can remember going to Turner Field as a kid with my family and experiencing a Braves game in person. The atmosphere of the stadium is what made the experience so special. The smell of the concession stands, the excitement of each person before the game, and the unity everyone felt from cheering for the same team.  

However, the exhilarating feeling of chopping the iconic tomahawk and chanting to cheer on the team I have loved for so long is in jeopardy. Ryan Helsley, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and a member of the Cherokee Nation, made comments that the tomahawk chop was “disrespectful.” Subsequently, the Braves removed the foam tomahawks for game five of the national league division series game. 

Helsley’s argument is that the tomahawk chop, “depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual,” Helsley said. 

The tomahawk was the Native American emblem for warfare. Braves fans use the tomahawk to cheer on the Braves in the warfare that is the competition of the game. Fans use the “chop” as a sign of respect and encouragement. Any other suggestion is unintended.   

If we take away the foam tomahawk and the tomahawk chant that has been iconic since the early 1990’s the restrictions will never end. If we strip the team of its most basic traditions soon the team name of Atlanta Braves will no longer be accepted as the “Braves”, a name since 1871 when they were called the Boston Braves.  

If we restrict everything that offends someone there will be almost nothing left to enjoy.”

Everything is offensive to someone so how will we ever be able to have long-lasting traditions, enjoyable themes or events, or even speak our mind freely. Everything will be bland and unexciting all because someone was too sensitive. 

The tomahawk was used as a weapon by Native American people. Therefore the Braves organization or fans are not trying to portray Native American people as caveman-like or be disrespectful but rather, brave warriors that inspire us to fight our hardest to win whether it is in combat or in this case on the baseball field. 

Therefore, the line between honoring people that deserve respect and being disrespectful has become blurred. The Braves franchise states that they have “worked to honor and respect the Native American community through the years.” In my opinion that is exactly what they have done.