The Atlanta Braves long ago retired Chief Noc-a-Homa, who used to emerge from a teepee in the outfield stands and do a dance every time a Braves player hit a home run, but they’re still not out of hot water with the Left for daring to persist in bearing the name Braves at all. And the Braves are duly contrite: they showed in their just-concluded National League Division Series that they’re ready to play ball with the Left and do whatever Leftists command them to do. More than one person is saying that’s why they got blown out by the Cardinals in the deciding game of that Series, 13-1.
It all started with an earnest Cardinals pitcher, Ryan Helsley, who, like Elizabeth Warren, hails from Oklahoma, and also like Warren, claims to be Native American. Unlike Warren, Helsley isn’t running for president and he isn’t trying to become a tenured professor at Harvard, so he has no need to pander to the prevailing identity politics of the Left, and his claim is almost certainly true. As a Native American, he is deeply offended by the Braves’ “tomahawk chop,” with which Braves fans serenade opposing players. Apparently under the impression that the tomahawk chop was an anthropological treatise, Helsley complained: “I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general. Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that.”
The young intellectual didn’t address the possibility that the whole thing might be in good fun. There is no fun, no joy, no humor on the Left these days, as the Ayatollah Khomeini remarked of another totalitarian imperative, Islam, back in the days when Henry Aaron was making Chief Noc-a-Homa dance practically every night. “There can be no fun or joy in anything serious,” said Khomeini, and today’s Left was listening.
Demonstrating more of his intellectual prowess, the grim, serious Helsley explained that he wasn’t bothered by Native Americans being mascots, and also that he was bothered: “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. That’s the disappointing part. That stuff like this still goes on. It’s just disrespectful, I think.”
Well, thinking is good, and if young Helsley did a bit more of it, he might realize just how ridiculous it is to think that sports team names such as Braves, Indians, Chiefs, and even Redskins are meant to be insulting and degrading to American Indians. This has become axiomatic today, but that doesn’t make it any truer. If it were true, Franciscan friars would be outraged at being thus degraded by the San Diego Padres. People of a certain stature would be reeling from the disrespect accorded them by the San Francisco Giants. Animal rights activists would be pressuring various sports franchises to stop degrading and disrespecting Lions and Tigers and Bears (and their Cubs), Eagles, and the like. Angels would be cursing a certain baseball team that likes to pretend it plays in Los Angeles.
The fact has been lost in our silly era, but in reality, sports teams took on their nicknames as declarations that they were aspiring to be as strong and fierce and noble as their mascots. The idea that teams took on the names of groups for which they had little respect, and thought ridiculous, or stupid, or evil in some way, is absurd. Teams took on their nicknames because they thought positively, not negatively, of the animal or human (or celestial) group in question.
But now even the Atlanta Braves have forgotten this, and are duly ashamed of themselves. They could have told Helsley that they meant no disrespect, and that he should lighten up and get his head back in the game, but instead they admitted that it was all their fault, and with all the ardor of a chastened Maoist at a self-criticism session, they hastened to make amends, issuing this statement before the deciding game of the division series:
Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today. Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game. As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.
Clearly the Atlanta Braves are not long for this world. Watch for the unveiling of the Atlanta Antifa – no, wait, in the world of Ryan Helsley and the Braves brass, that would disrespect Antifa. Oh, this is a conundrum. If naming a team after something is degrading and demeaning, maybe Ryan Helsley and his ilk will be satisfied if the ex-Braves go with the Atlanta Trump Supporters.
However, some Braves fans are unhappy, particularly after the tomahawk-free, politically correct 13-1 humiliation at the hands of Helsley’s morally superior Cardinals. Georgia House Majority Whip Trey Kelley tweeted: “This. Is. Painful. Have to feel this is karma for the unjustified and rash decision to do away with foam tomahawks.” Austin Chambers of the Republican State Leadership Committee wrote: “So we’re giving away home field advantage. So much for being RELENTLESS. Makes no sense @Braves. Want to end light it up chop too??? Time to chop our hearts out ATL!”
Yet one thing is certain: the Braves don’t care what Kelley or Chambers or other disappointed fans think. The Left owns the culture, and so one whining Cardinals pitcher can compel an opposing team to change the way it operates, and that team’s own fans will just have to take it.
Since the Cardinals ended up beating the Braves badly in that final game of their division series, maybe the whole thing was a psy-op. Maybe those wily St. Louis bird-haters (hence their team name) have hit on something: virtue-signaling as a means to discombobulate and defeat the other team. Watch for other teams to try this now. In the American League Championship Series, will the New York Yankees (good mascot for the Left, as it must mean that the New York team hates Americans) trot out Buzz Aldrin to lament at how degraded he feels because the Houston team calls itself the Astros? Stay tuned.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.