Column: A most improbable team brings Atlanta a title

Atlanta Braves left fielder Eddie Rosario holds up the trophy after winning baseball's World Series in Game 6 against the Houston Astros Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. The Braves won 7-0.

What if they held a World Series and nobody wanted either team to win?

It’s hard to cheer for either team when it’s the Cheaters versus the Racists.

During one game a Houston Astros’ fan held up a sign, “The ‘Chop’ is Racist.” An Atlanta fan could easily counter with, “Cheating is wrong!”

The only good thing about the 2021 World Series was that the New York Yankees weren’t in it.

Sadly, the Cleveland Indians/Guardians weren’t either. At least we’ll have a clean slate for next year and a new team name, although that’s being contested with a lawsuit by the Cleveland Guardians roller derby team, which I didn’t know existed until now.

For now, we’re rebuilding. That’s the Cleveland way. “There’s always next year” is our team motto. We’re always rebuilding our sports teams, just like our highways. An orange barrel could be our logo.

But I digress.

This year’s World Series pitted the Astros against the Atlanta baseball team. I can’t call them the Braves. If they were brave, they’d change their name and stop using that tomahawk in their logo.

Before the first game of the World Series, reporters asked MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about the Braves name and the tomahawk chop. Manfred wasn’t brave enough to insist on a change.

“It’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country. They’re not all the same,” Manfred said. “The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. 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.”

It’s not the end of the story. Not when I’m sitting with my grandson watching the team play on national TV – which reaches every market and every child watching – and they cue the tomahawks. The tomahawk, that small ax once used by Native Americans. The chop is a way to encourage your team to “scalp” the other team, which diminishes Native Americans. At least the team finally stopped giving out foam tomahawks.

USA TODAY columnist Bob Nightengale refuses to use the team’s name, and refers to them as the Atlanta baseball team. “Apparently, as long as St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is not around, the tomahawk chop is not supposed to offend anyone,” he wrote.

Helsley told the St. Louis-Post Dispatch: “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. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. 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.”

In a statement to CNN, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James R. Floyd said, “Although the Tomahawk Chop may be a game day tradition, it is not an appropriate acknowledgment of tribal tradition or culture. It reduces Native Americans to a caricature and minimizes the contributions of Native peoples as equal citizens and human beings.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, one of the largest tribal nations in the country, told The Athletic: “We appreciate that the Atlanta Braves are trying to honor the Native community, but the best way to honor us, is to stop the use of Native American depictions across sports.”

What will it take to change? Pressure from corporations, advertisers and associations. FedEx refused to support a team with a racist name. Voila. The Washington Redskins became the Washington Football Team. The NCAA refused to hold championship events in states showing the Confederate battle emblem. Poof. Mississippi retired its Confederate state flag.

As for the Astros, let’s call them the Asterisks. That’s what we need in the record book. A big asterisk for 2017 when they created an elaborate sign stealing system to win games. The team watched a live feed of the game, decoded the opposing pitcher’s signs to his catcher, then banged on a trash can in the dugout to let their own hitters know what kind of pitch was coming.

The Astros need to return their World Series rings from 2017. MLB needs to erase their World Series “win” from the records or at least add a big fat asterisk to denote that they got there by cheating.

I’m glad baseball is dormant until spring, when we’ll get to cheer for our Guardians.

I’m still getting used to that one. Hopefully by opening day, it’ll roll off the tongue, and not offend anyone.

Connect with Regina Brett on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans. Listen to “Little Detours” with Regina Brett at or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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