This is not an easy stance to take. I’ve been chopping since my very first baseball memory, watching Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser turn double plays, David Justice clearing the right field wall, and the “big three” lead us to division crown after division crown. The Chop was a sign of solidarity for an otherwise (largely) apathetic fanbase, a way to unite Atlantans around their hometown team, even though for most of them, their home town is elsewhere. Emblazoned across the right field wall of Truist (ugh) Park is The Chop House, a restaurant that opens into the right field bleachers. There are seats below it that look into right field called Below The Chop. The motion has become ingrained into the culture of the team, the stadium, and the city.
But it’s time for it to go.
Much has been written about the exploitation of Native Americans in modern professional sports. On one side of the spectrum is the Florida State Seminoles, who have been cautiously praised for their incorporation of actual Native Americans from the Seminole tribe in their pregame ceremonies. On the other, the Washington Redskins, the very team name being a blatant slur towards Native Americans, to team ownerships insufferable insistence that they’re really the victim here. The Braves have usually come back somewhere in the middle of that. They don’t seem to ruffle as many feathers by comparison to the Cleveland Indians or the aforementioned Redskins, but they’re still not winning anyone over either.
The Braves are entering a new decade, with a new team, new look, new GM, and a new hope of bringing back elite baseball to the “New York of the South”, which also means its a perfect time to shed parts of the past, and move forward. Here’s some reasons why….
New Fans mean New Opportunities
Anyone who lives in Atlanta knows one true fact about the citizens that populate it: No one is actually “from” Atlanta. want proof? Go to a Braves game when the Cubs are in town. Or the Yankees. Or the Dodgers. I have been to many games where if you closed your eyes, you couldn’t use the crowd to figure out who scored. Having spent a chunk of my life in Philadelphia, and having been to any Phillies games, I can assure you… that’s not normal. The truth is, Atlanta is a transplant city. Transplants adopt local culture, and as the city continues to grow, so also do the opportunities to put a positive mark on Atlanta’s record on civil rights and treatment of minority communities. The Braves re-location to the Marietta area (on Atlanta’s upper west side, a booming part of the metro area), just inside the perimeter only exacerbates this effect. The team is at an intersection of new fans adopting the team, and gaining more of the national spotlight. You only get one chance to make a first impression, right?
Being First Means almost Certain Change Elsewhere
The Braves are the longest continually operating sports franchise in American history. Of all teams who’s names bear reference to the Native Americans, their roots in the country’s culture run the deepest, and with that sort of power comes responsibility. A change in the Braves attitude would almost certainly start an avalanche of pressure towards other teams both in and out of baseball to start thinking like a 21st century franchise, and shake the offensive monikers they’ve held on to for too long. Baseball is a game that seems determined to get younger, and appeal to younger audiences in general. In broader terms, this is about beating other teams, who continue to drag their feet on this, to the right side of history.
“Tradition” Just Isn’t Good Enough Anymore
Racism in the name of “tradition” in the south is, unfortunately, still a thing. Rebel flags, street names, and statues still remain as reminders that this part of the country, while making steps forwards, still has a long way to go. The Braves aren’t going to solve racism and marginalization of people of color in the southeast, folks, sorry to break it to you. They are, however, the representative MLB team for as far west as Louisiana, as far north as Tennessee, and as far east as North Carolina. Braves Country covers a lot of ground, and making a move like this will send a broader message to those communities. To not do it because “it’s what we’ve always done” is a refrain heard far and wide, but even louder there.
What do you think?
— Romantic About Baseball (@RmntcBaseball) February 2, 2020
I’m making a commitment, in 2020: The Braves are my team… but I’m Not Chopping.