Hours before today’s winner-take-all NLDS Game 5, the Atlanta Braves responded to Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley’s comments about the disrespectful nature of the team’s longstanding “tomahawk chop” celebration. In a somewhat surprising turn, the team said they would not pass out foam tomahawks to fans, and they confirmed it was a direct response to Helsley’s comments last week about his Cherokee heritage and the “disrespect” conveyed by the gesture. That’s a good first step, but when the Braves tried to take the next one, they tripped over their own dicks.
Here, again, is what Helsley said:
“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 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.”
The respectful and correct way to handle this would have been to ban the tomahawks and cease using the music and graphics package that accompanies the chop for the rest of the playoffs. However, that’s not that what the Braves are doing. They’re admitting the chop is offensive, yet are only taking initial steps to “reduce” it.
As their full statement on the matter reads, they will only stop encouraging fans to do the chop when Helsley, a relief pitcher, is in the game. Not only does this single out Helsley as a target for fans who are angry about the small concessions that are being made, it also implies that they’ll continue to use the music and graphics for the other eight or so innings that Helsley won’t be on the mound, as if the only possible offense of the chop is aiming it at someone while they themselves are in the game.
Thankfully, the team whose postseason slogan is still “#ChopOn” is going to continue looking into how they “activate elements of [their] brand.”