For years Atlanta Braves fans have done the "tomahawk chop" during key moments of games and the franchise has often provided attendees with foam tomahawks to enhance the experience. That won't be the case for Game 5 of the National League Division Series today thanks to a complaint from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley.
Helsley is a member of the Cherokee Nation and before Game 2 of the NLDS, he said the chop was "disrespectful" and "kind of caveman-type" behavior. In response to Helsley's comments, the Braves issued the following statement on Saturday:
“Our organization has sought to embrace all people and highlight the many cultures in Braves Country. We will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the in-game experience, and look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community once the season comes to an end.”
Braves fans adopted the tomahawk chop from Florida State in 1991 after the team signed former Seminoles star Deion Sanders. It became wildly popular during the team's playoff runs in 1991 and 1992 and has stuck ever since. So after almost 30 years of chopping, did one player's complaints completely end the practice?
Helsley's protest seems to have stopped the Braves in their tracks. It's not like they can just go back to encouraging the practice once he leaves town. It's still offensive whether or not any Native Americans are playing in the game.
I will give the Braves credit for listening to the complaint and acting on it. The organization could have very easily taken the Daniel Snyder approach and fought back hard against the aggrieved party.
We'll see how this plays out over the rest of the postseason (if the Braves advance on Wednesday) and in the offseason. It seems -- at least initially -- like the Braves are open to listening and changing.