Braves use ‘tomahawk chop’ during home opener

Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during the home opener. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during the home opener. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

After not disclosing a position on the “tomahawk chop” for the past 18 months, the Braves encouraged fans to chant and chop during their home opener against the Phillies Friday night.

The team used the digital tomahawk chop images during the game, along with the drum beat, encouraging fans to do the chop during several pivotal moments during the Braves’ fifth and sixth innings. The team posted back-to-back three-run innings that included homers from Ronald Acuna and Ehire Adrianza in an 8-1 win.

The Braves have been under scrutiny for their use of the chop and have drawn criticism, including during the 2019 National League Division Series against the Cardinals. Team officials said they would evaluate the future the chop soon after. Although the Braves declined to publicly state a decision, including this week from inquiries from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it appears the chant that’s been popular at home games for over two decades will continue.

Ryan Helsley, a Cardinals relief pitcher and a member of the Cherokee Nation, called the Braves fans’ arm motion and chant “disrespectful” during the playoffs.

The issue was not at the forefront last season with no fans at Truist Park due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, fans returned in limited capacity Friday and the chop continued at the first opportunity.

Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during Atlanta Braves home opener at Truist Park on Friday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during Atlanta Braves home opener at Truist Park on Friday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves CEO Derek Schiller was unavailable for an interview on the topic at the AJC’s request this week. The Braves declined to provide a statement.

The tomahawk chop has been a part of Braves home games since 1991, spreading to the team’s fans from Florida State when FSU alum Deion Sanders played for the Braves. It has drawn criticism through the decades, particularly during the division series against the Cardinals.

Before the series’ final game Oct. 9, 2019, the Braves decided not to distribute 40,000 red foam tomahawks to fans, as had been planned, and decided not to play the musical prompt and graphics for the chop when Helsley was in the game. He didn’t get into the game, which the Cardinals won 13-1 after scoring 10 runs in the first inning, and the chop broke out several times.

Braves fans do the "tomahawk chop" during Friday's game.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Braves fans do the "tomahawk chop" during Friday's game. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Braves said in a written statement at that game that they looked forward “to continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after this postseason concludes.”

During a joint interview with the AJC in July, Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk and Schiller said unequivocally that the Braves would keep their team name and icons, but left open the question of whether the organization would keep the tomahawk chop as part of its in-game fan experience.

“Be assured we are spending a lot of time thinking about it,” McGuirk said then, and Schiller added: “It’s a topic that deserves a lot of debate and a lot of discussion and a lot of thoughtfulness, and that’s exactly what we are doing.”

In Other News