Real Problems: The Tomahawk Chop

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Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, and President Carter. Ugh!

Admittedly, I’m behind the times on this political column masquerading as a baseball column written by Mike Bates at SB Nation. Hating the Tomahawk Chop is nothing new.

I was 12 years old when I went to the 1991 World Series in Atlanta. At the time a handful people were protesting the Braves’ and their new Tomahawk Chop, so obviously it was national news. It was comical distraction. Ted Turner’s wife at the time was the famous progressive Jane Fonda. When she was caught doing the chop the white liberal outrage was insufferable.  After enormous national pressure, Fonda modified her chop by putting the palm of her hand facing down rather than the edge down. Amazing!

The Tomahawk Chop survived and the Atlanta Braves went on to win 14 division titles in a row. The team became known for its pitching, one paltry World Series title, and the Tomahawk Chop. The chop is a huge part of the Atlanta Braves tradition and there’s nothing offensive about it.

I’m a firm a believer that you shouldn’t do things that people find offensive. That’s pretty difficult these days because we’re the Nation of the Offended. I’m a son of the South and the Confederate battle flag is clearly offensive to people and with good reason. Many people who wave the flag do it to offend others.

I’m also a Christian and that’s basically the most offensive thing going these days. Unrepentant fornicators are living in open rebellion and all of that. One thing uniquely Southern about Southerners  is that many of us have ancestors that were Native American. I mean really Native American. Not the Native American faker Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

I don’t find the tomahawk chop remotely offensive. Just like I don’t find the Fighting Irish offensive. Just like I don’t find Demon Deacons offensive (still not quite sure what that is). However, that didn’t’ stop Mike Bates from writing a classic piece titled “Yeah, the “Tomahawk Chop” bugs me. Here’s why.” Now, there have been plenty of people who have complained that the Tomahawk Chop is racist, but none have ever justified it quite like this…

We continue to participate, largely unknowingly, in the marginalization of Native Americans every day, and rather than do something to improve the conditions on reservations across this country, we have elected to instead pretend like we’re honoring them. Maybe we would do a better job of honoring them if we made sure reservations had access to adequate healthcare, education, and food. Maybe we can stop pretending that everything is fine for Native people because many tribes have a casino and that, because of that, we’re entitled to take whatever we want from them for our sports culture.

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This Braves Indian cap was accidentally shipped out.


Yada, yada, yada…. white guilt. Maybe I don’t have this guilt because my Muskogee ancestors got the shaft from President Jackson, or more likely it’s because the Tomahawk Chop has as much to do with reservation poverty as the Mississippi River has being named the Mississippi. Poverty on reservations is real. The idea that the government isn’t doing enough is how we’ve spent a trillion dollars on the War on Poverty and haven’t changed the poverty rate. That’s a separate issue, but again white guilt about poverty manifests itself in faux outrage about an separate and unrelated issue.

In January, when word leaked that the Braves would bring back the laughing Indian logo for an alternative hat the thought police were out in full force. Again, it wasn’t Native Americans who were outraged. It was a handful of white guilt suffering sports writers who were upset. David O’Brien, the Atlanta Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote a great article about the controversy.

But let me ask you this: When the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” logo is plastered everywhere, with the bearded character who has fists up ready to fight, have you ever heard a single complaint from a fan (or a writer, especially one of us of Irish lineage) about it depicting the Irish as a bunch of hostile brawlers?I mean, it’s not as if the logo has an Irish guy with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. Just a silly green hat and hands balled up in fists. Most of us probably like the image. Does the Indian-head logo feature a spear or bloody knife somewhere that I’m missing? Or what, is it a Mohawk haircut that’s offensive to some? What specifically about the logo is offensive? Look at it now and please tell me.

My favorite part of the hat controversy was the term “screaming savage.” It’s an offensive term that the Braves organization has never used and was likely coined by a well meaning and concerned sports writer. Go figure! The Atlanta Braves eventually caved to pressure and abandoned the hat. Noted concerned white guy Paul Lukas was very happy with the outcome. It was his “screaming Indian” article at ESPN that ignited the fire storm. Power to the people!

Finally, how can white liberals complain about the Tomahawk Chop when they vote for disgusting political opportunists like Elizabeth Warren? I hate to lump all these groups together, but that’s precisely what people do when they complain about the Tomahawk Chop. Maybe their complaints about the plight of Native Americans would carry more weight if they quit supporting movies about Che Guevara. Heck, just quit wearing the monster’s t-shirts; that would be a good start.

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