The approval of the Atlanta Braves name from local Cherokee leaders means the team won’t be pressured to change the moniker a la the Cleveland Indians transitioning to the Guardians.
In his annual World Series press conference, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was directly asked about the status of the Braves in light of what Cleveland has done the past few years: dropped the Chief Wahoo logo and changed the team name from Indians to Guardians. The use of racial stereotypes has been a hot one in the world of professional sports; besides the Indians, the Washington Football Team dropped the Redskins name and branding. So it’s a natural topic of questioning regarding the Braves name, especially with the team in the World Series. From the Washington Post:
Starting next season, Cleveland will play as the Guardians after changing its name under pressure, but Atlanta has yet to face the same scrutiny. The organization has maintained it will neither change its name nor dissuade its fans from performing the “tomahawk chop,” the in-game rallying cry in which they mimic what is meant to be a Native American chant.
The organization said it has consulted with local Cherokee leaders who see the name as a source of pride. Manfred said that local buy-in is what separates Atlanta’s name from Cleveland’s.
“It’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country. They aren’t all the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community,” Manfred said. “The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”
This is the same policy employed by the NCAA, by the way; local buy-in is why Florida State was allowed to keep the Seminoles name and why the University of North Dakota had to drop the Fighting Sioux name: Florida State received support from Florida tribes, and UND did not from Midwest tribes.
However, that doesn’t mean the team won’t address some of the nastier portions of the branding; some signage has been removed, and the Braves have distanced themselves from the tomahawk chop and Chop On marketing.