This is not an easy stance to take. I’ve been chopping since my very first baseball memory: watching while Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser turned double plays, David Justice cleared the right field wall, and the ‘big three’ led 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 home team, even though most were born elsewhere. Emblazoned across the right field wall of Truist (ugh) Park is Chop House, the pylon signage for a restaurant that opens into the right field bleachers. There are seats below it, facing right field, called Below The Chop. And the physical motion itself has become ingrained in 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 are the Florida State Seminoles, who have been cautiously praised for their incorporation of actual Seminole tribe members in their pregame ceremonies. On the other side are the Washington Redskins, with a team name that’s a blatant Native American slur, and a team ownership that insufferably insists they’re the real victims here. The Braves have usually fallen somewhere in the middle of that. They don’t seem to ruffle as many feathers as the Cleveland Indians or the aforementioned Redskins, but they’re 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 elite baseball back to ‘the New York of the South.’ This is a perfect time to shed parts of the past and move forward. Here are some reasons why.
New Fans mean New Opportunities
Anyone who lives in Atlanta knows one true fact about the citizens who 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 the norm. 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 of civil rights and treatment of minority communities. The Braves’ relocation 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 gaining new fans 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 whose names bear reference to 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’s attitude could start an avalanche of pressure toward other teams, both in and out of baseball, to think like 21st century franchises and shake offensive monikers they’ve held onto for too long. Baseball is a game that seems determined to get younger and appeal to younger audiences in general. Put simply, this is about beating other teams, who continue to drag their feet, 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 and Confederate street names and statues still remain as reminders that this part of the country, while making steps forward, 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 would send a broader message to those communities. To not do it because “it’s what we’ve always done” is an excuse heard far and wide, but even louder in that region.
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.