A fan’s view: Keep the community, change the name

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Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Is it time for the Braves to change their name?

Editor’s note: Should the Braves change their name and associated Native American symbols? It’s a question that has faced the franchise in the past. It does so again with recent pressure on the NFL’s Washington Redskins, MLB’s Cleveland Indians and others to change. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought the voice of Braves fans, on both sides, as part of a broad discussion on the topic. Here is one view.

My father moved from India to Atlanta in the 1980s and immediately attached himself to Dale Murphy and the Atlanta Braves. As a child, I was right there with him – watching Sid Bream slide home was one of my first memories of staying up late. The AJC front page of our 1995 World Series win still hangs in my childhood bedroom. But the Braves meant something more to me as a child of immigrants; they were the thing that allowed me to connect with others. Every time I went to see the Braves, it made me feel at home. When I was there, I wasn't different – I was part of something larger than myself.

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It pains me to realize now that the team that has given me so much makes others feel like outsiders. Let’s be clear: there is pressure on us to change the name and the chop, not because of “cancel culture,” but because a caricature of Native Americans should not represent a baseball team in 2020.

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The branding has never been about honoring Native Americans or even remotely related to Atlanta or Georgia. The “Braves” name comes from New York’s infamous Tammany Hall; the “chop” comes from Florida State. The Braves, when in Boston, used a promotional film titled “Take Me Out to the Wigwam” to promote postseason baseball. While in Atlanta, in addition to Chief Noc-A-Homa, the Braves briefly added a mascot named Princess Win-A-Lotta. Even the most die-hard fans cannot defend these racist symbols to represent our community or claim they benefit Native Americans in any way.

While profiting from this branding, the Braves rarely, if ever, have highlighted the communities that they are supposed to be “honoring.” As a long-time fan, I have never seen an “Indigenous People’s Night” nor a presentation to local tribes at a game.

The worst part is it appears the Braves know how problematic it is. When the Cardinals’ Ryan Hensley made his thoughts known on the Tomahawk Chop in last year’s National League Division Series, the Braves quietly removed the foam tomahawks from the seats. When the Braves proposed the “Screaming Indian” logo in 2013 on spring training hats, they quickly walked back their initial design after negative feedback. The Braves organization knows these symbols are wrong and show it with its actions. Now is the time to make a change.

The Braves have changed their logos several times since coming to Atlanta, have played in three different stadiums, and have had three mascots. With the changes, fans have voiced complaints, but ultimately remembered that the team isn’t any of these things but was greater than the sum of its parts.

Changing the name, the logo, or the chop doesn't take away Bream rounding third. It doesn't change worst-to-first. It, unfortunately, doesn't change infield fly rules or three-error NLDS games – those memories don't change no matter what the team is named. If the Braves can't be a representation of everyone in our metro Atlanta community; then we must change the name and drop the tomahawk chop. Our team should be home for everyone.