Atlanta Braves Removed Foam Tomahawks from Stadium During Cardinals Playoff Game
The move came after Cardinals rookie Ryan Helsley expressed disappointment in the Atlanta team's "Tomahawk Chop" chant
The Atlanta Braves bucked tradition for Wednesday night’s home game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Major League Baseball team removed its usual foam tomahawks from SunTrust Park for the team’s Game 5 playoff game against the Cardinals, after the tomahawks had been placed on the seats for Games 1 and 2 in the series.
The move came after Cardinals rookie Ryan Helsley expressed his disappointment at the “Tomahawk Chop” chants at the stadium from fans, calling it “a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” per the Bleacher Report.
“Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual,” Helsley, who pitches for the Cardinals and is a member of Cherokee Nation, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday.
“They are a lot more than that,” he continued. “It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that,” he added, referencing the Washington Redskins NFL team.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told the Post-Dispatch that he respected Helsley’s words.
“He’s sincere about his heritage and the thoughts behind it,” he said. “I don’t think he’s got anything malicious toward it. I think he was just honest about it. And I respect that completely. … Hels is a pro. And the hope would be, look, he was speaking out of sincerity. He wasn’t speaking out of maliciousness or anything like that.”
“So people can take that in whatever context they want to take it in and how they react is how they react,” he continued. “But I’m sure Ryan will pitch equally good regardless.”
In a statement, the Braves said that Helsley’s “concerns” were being taken seriously, according to Yahoo! Sports.
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“[We] will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the in-game experience, and look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community once the season comes to an end,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for the Braves did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
ESPN reported that the team “also announced that they would not play the accompanying music to the chant or use any ‘Chop-related graphics’ on the scoreboard when Helsley was in the game.”
While Helsley didn’t pitch Wednesday night, he later said that the Braves were “taking the right steps,” ESPN reported.
“I think it’s a positive thing. Fans might not like it, but maybe they can reflect back on it and see it was a good move,” he said.
In Wednesday’s game, the Cards beat the Braves 13-1.