‘Keep choppin’ Republicans slam White House for suggesting a Braves rebrand

Georgia Republicans rallied to defend the Atlanta Braves’ moniker and the team’s tomahawk chop chant after a White House spokeswoman urged the reigning World Series champions to hold a “conversation” about rebranding.

The remarks from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday came hours after President Joe Biden hosted the team in the East Room, declaring the team the “upset kings of October” at a joyous ceremony honoring the improbable 2021 title run.

Pressed by a reporter about whether Biden supports the team’s name and its tomahawk chop, Jean-Pierre said the administration believes “it’s important to have this conversation.”

“And Native American and indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation,” Jean-Pierre added.

“That is something that the president believes, that is something this administration believes, and he has consistently emphasized that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is presented a jersey as he welcomes the Atlanta Braves, winners of the 2021 Baseball World Series, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

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It prompted swift criticism from the state’s top Republicans as they seek to energize conservatives ahead of tough November matchups. The latest AJC poll showed Biden’s approval at 37%, and GOP leaders aim to link Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock to his weak ratings.

Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who faces Warnock in November, said the pressure to change the team’s name is “ridiculous.”

“Renaming a beloved team like the Braves is a sideshow from the Democrat’s failures. We need to address the serious issues in this country, not woke distractions.”

Gov. Brian Kemp was succinct, posting on social media that the team name should “always be the Atlanta Braves.”

“Go Braves and Keep Choppin’!” he added.

The top Democrats, meanwhile, avoided taking Biden’s approach. Abrams said through a spokesman she is rooting for the team to repeat its championship run. And Warnock steered clear of the issue at a campaign stop in Norcross.

“I want to see the Braves win the World Series again. I am aware that the Braves organization is having conversations with the Native American community,” he said. “I trust them to work through that process and come to a conclusion that makes sense.”

Hardball

It’s not the first time Georgia Republicans have played hardball with the White House over baseball.

Kemp and his allies often remind voters that Biden supported Major League Baseball’s decision to yank last year’s All-Star game from Atlanta in protest of the GOP-backed rewrite of election laws.

The league was soon forced to eat crow by hosting its premier event – three games of the 2021 World Series – in a state it snubbed a few months earlier. Former President Donald Trump, who had called on supporters to boycott the sport, highlighted the clash by attending one of the games at Truist Park.

Former first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump do the Tomahawk Chop prior to Game 4 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Atlanta. Melania Trump is getting into NFTs. (Elsa/Getty Images/TNS)

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Credit: TNS

The team’s executives have long said they have no intention of changing the Braves’ name or scaling back the use of a tomahawk as a logo even as other teams with monikers that refer to Native Americans underwent rebranding efforts.

And Republicans have often defended the use of the tomahawk chop, a staple of Braves games since the early 1990s that has come under sharp criticism from the National Congress of American Indians and other advocacy groups.

After the team briefly distanced itself from the chant during a 2019 playoff game amid criticism from a rival relief pitcher who was a member of the Cherokee Nation, several GOP officials said the team’s humiliating 13-1 defeat was “karma” for its stance.

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