You can be forgiven if you don’t know who plays at Truist Park. After all, there’s never been a game at Truist Park.
The stadium itself is pretty new, having only opened in 2017. Then, it was SunTrust Park, 10 miles from downtown Atlanta, in the unincorporated Cobb County town of Cumberland. It maintains an Atlanta mailing address, but the entire point of Atlanta’s baseball team moving to Cobb County was to get out of Atlanta, to a more convenient location for white suburban fans. From the time it was built, it’s only been half a joke to call it “White Flight Stadium.”
With the news that the Washington NFL team is considering a name change after being pressured to do so by their stadium’s namesake, FedEx, as well as Nike and PepsiCo, there’s renewed focus on Native-named teams throughout North American sports, and what they’ll all do. Friday, Cleveland’s MLB team and Edmonton’s CFL team followed Washington’s lead by publicly announcing their intentions to reassess their nicknames.
The team that plays at Truist Park, home of the Tomahawk Chop when there are fans in the stands, has been conspicuously silent on the issue. Friday night, the Atlanta team tweeted a 41-second video of workout highlights. Saturday morning, the defending National League East champions posted a 4th of July message.
As for Truist, a company spokesman told Deadspin, “We support the Atlanta Braves and their work with the Native American community on the responsible use of Native American culture and imagery in the sport.”
The “responsible use of Native American culture and imagery” practiced by Atlanta is that the team did not distribute foam tomahawks for Game 5 of last year’s National League Division Series after Cardinals reliever and Cherokee Nation member Ryan Helsley complained about how racist the Chop is. They still did the Chop and played the accompanying music, just not when Helsley was in the game, and even though there was hardly anything for Atlanta to cheer about after St. Louis’ 10-run first inning. True to form, some truly idiotic Republican politicians from Georgia blamed Atlanta’s loss on the decision to reduce — not eliminate, but reduce — an overtly racist display after hearing the complaint of someone victimized by that racism.
The Republican position here is pretty clear, as the leader of the party, Donald Trump, drew large-scale protests before his speech at Mount Rushmore on Thursday. Sioux leaders said Trump was not welcome there and that the monument should be removed. Trump previously has said he does not think the Washington NFL team should change its name.
Truist, using the Atlanta MLB team’s nickname in its statement and supporting the next-to-nothing that they’ve done, isn’t exactly applying any pressure for change itself.
At least Truist has come through and said something. Asked for comment on Thursday about the team whose building their name is on in Chicago, United Airlines had not responded in 48 hours. The NHL team that plays at United Center also has been proceeding in as close to a business-as-usual stance as it can, all under a banner that reads “ONE COMMUNITY” with their racial cartoon of a logo between the words.
The NFL team in Kansas City plays in a stadium that doesn’t have a corporate sponsor, and while Nike has removed all Washington gear from its website, there’s still a full range of Kansas City apparel, including the chance to dress your baby in an arrowhead logo, right above a Nike swoosh that the company, letting actions speak louder than words, remains just fine with.
If Roger Goodell is prodding along Washington’s name change, and there’s a thought that it might even happen before this season, what about Kansas City? Maybe that will take more time, but they have to be seen as on the clock. And if the COVID-19 pandemic means that there isn’t actually football this year, it means that there’s a nonzero chance that the last thing Kansas City ever did with its current name was win the Super Bowl.