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National Congress of American Indians Responds to Rob Manfred's Braves Comments

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 28, 2021

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Ahead of the World Series Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters he won't force the Atlanta Braves to stop using their nickname or the "tomahawk chop."

The National Congress of American Indians responded in a statement Wednesday, specifically disagreeing with the commissioner's view that the debate over whether or not the team's nickname and chant are offensive is a "local issue."

Evan Drellich of The Athletic relayed the comments:

Evan Drellich @EvanDrellich

National Congress of American Indians responds to Rob Manfred’s assertions about the Braves and the tomahawk chop: "Nothing could be further from the truth.” <a href="https://t.co/CjzSzt56sV">pic.twitter.com/CjzSzt56sV</a>

“Major League Baseball is a global brand, it markets its World Series nationally and internationally, and the games played in Atlanta this weekend will be viewed by tens of millions of fans across the country and around the world," NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in part, per The Athletic.

"Meanwhile, the name ‘Braves,’ the tomahawk adorning the team’s uniform, and the ‘tomahawk chop’ that the team exhorts its fans to perform at home games are meant to depict and caricature not just one tribal community but all Native people, and that is certainly how baseball fans and Native people everywhere interpret them."

Manfred said the following of the team, its mascot and the chant on Tuesday, per Bob Nightengale and Gabe Lacques of USA Today.

"I think it’s important to understand that we have 30 markets in the country," Manfred said. "Not all are the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop.

"For me, that’s kind of the end of the story."

Manfred also said that MLB is marketed on a local basis and that the league tailors to fans in particular markets.

"We don’t market our game on a nationwide basis. Ours is an everyday game," Manfred continued. "You’ve gotta sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences between the regions in terms of how the teams are marketed."

Atlanta has been centerstage at the intersection of baseball and current events earlier this year as well.

Major League Baseball was scheduled to have the 2021 All-Star Game there but pulled the contest in response to the state's new election rules. As Fredreka Schouten of CNN noted, numerous critics have said those rules make it harder for Black voters to participate in elections.

The debate over professional sports teams' use of Indigenous imagery has been a recent hot topic in MLB, as Cleveland is changing its nickname to the Guardians beginning with the 2022 season. Its Chief Wahoo logo was officially retired in 2018.

Manfred's remarks came prior to Atlanta's first World Series appearance since 1999. Atlanta is facing the Houston Astros and took Game 1 of the Fall Classic 6-2, with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday.

The series will head to Truist Park in Cumberland, Georgia on Friday for Games 3 and 4 at minimum.

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