- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said calls to change the name of the Atlanta Braves are “cancellation culture awakening.”
- The White House said Monday it was “important” to talk about the name of the strike team.
- Native American activists have been fighting to change sports mascots and team names for decades.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said efforts to change the name of the Atlanta Braves baseball team are a result of “cancellation culture,” but Native American communities chanted racist group names and mascots years before the term entered the vocabulary politician’s.
After being asked about the group’s visit to the White House on Monday and “discussion” about changing its name by Fox News Sunday anchor Shannon Bream, Kemp pushed back, saying the Braves respect and honor Native Americans.
“We’ve had meetings in the governor’s office about this. I think, again, this is the culture of awakening and really national values that are … being pushed down in our state and other states across the country,” said Kemp.
President Joe Biden hosted the team this week to commemorate its 2021 World Series victory. As a result of the visit, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the President’s thoughts on the team’s name and the tradition of tomahawk steak at games, during Monday’s press briefing at the White House.
“So, look, we — we think it’s important to have this conversation,” Jean-Pierre said, “and Native American and Native American voices should be at the center of that conversation.”
Many Native American leaders and groups have said they find the action offensive. Last year, Native American tribes called out Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred after he said the tribes supported the “tomahawk,” a move the team’s fans make using their hands to mimic the slice of an ax.
The National Congress of American Indians also condemned Manfred’s comments, saying the images and the group’s name “were intended to portray and ridicule not just one tribal community but all Native people.”
“Therefore, the league and the team have an obligation to truly listen to tribal nations and leaders across the United States about how the team’s mascot affects them,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp.
Native Americans have fought for decades to raise awareness about the harms of using stereotypical images of Native people for sports teams. Just this year, the Washington Commanders NFL team replaced its previous name, an anti-Native American slur, after 2020 brought calls for racial justice across the nation. But by 1992, indigenous groups had already taken steps to protest the name by asking the US Patent and Trademark Office to strip the group of its right to use it.
According to Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum, group mascots, catchphrases and other traditions referring to Native Americans reinforce harmful stereotypes about non-Natives. Images such as the “tomahawk” depict natives as “barbarians,” according to the museum.
Offensive mascots are damaging to Indigenous children’s mental health, research also shows.
The Braves and a representative for Kemp did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.