The Atlanta Braves did not pass out foam tomahawks to fans for Game 5 of the National League Division series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday evening after one player called them “disrespectful.”
The Braves gave out the tomahawks during Game 1 and 2 of the series at SunTrust Park. Ahead of Game 2, Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, 25, spoke out against the tomahawks, claiming they were “disrespectful” and possessed a “kind of caveman-type” imagery.
Helsley said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general. Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot of 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 it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.
“That’s the disappointing part,” he added. “That stuff like this still goes on. It’s just disrespectful, I think.”
The tomahawk arm motion has been a mainstay for Braves fans since the team played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium back in 1991.
Helsley’s grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee and his family has ties to the Cherokee Nation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In response to Helsley’s comments, the Braves affirmed it would crack down on the tomahawks and its associated chant.
“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today. Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game,” the team said in a statement. “As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.”