October 27, 2021

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Defends Atlanta's Racist Tomahawk Chop (Calling It An Example Of Regional Diversity)

As the 2021 World Series got underway on Tuesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there has been no pressure from his office on the Atlanta team about changing its nickname or banning the Tomahawk Chop or the fans' chanting what is meant to be a Native American chant.

Manfred dismissed any concerns that the chopping and chanting is racist and offensive by noting that "there are all sorts of differences between the regions" and how teams are marketed to fans. (Red Sox fans sing 'Sweet Caroline' and fans in Atlanta mock the victims of a genocide that lasted hundreds of years. Each market has a different point of view. Some embrace analytics, some are mired in the 1830s.)

Manfred claimed the Atlanta team has "done a phenomenal job with the Native American community", though he did not mention anything that could be construed as evidence. He lied when he said the Native American community in the Atlanta area fully supports the chop.
It's important to understand that we have 30 markets in the country. Not all are the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves' program, including the chop. For me, that's kind of the end of the story. In that market, we're taking into account the Native American community. . . .

Atlanta, as I've said before, they've done a great job with the Native Americans. I think the Native American community is the most important group to decide whether it's appropriate or not and they have been unwaveringly supportive of the Braves. . . .

I don't know how every Native American group around the country feels. I am 100% certain that the Braves understand what the Native American community in their region believes and that they've acted in accordance with that understanding. . . .

We don't market our game on a nationwide basis. You got to sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences between the regions in terms of how the teams are marketed. . . .

We always have tried to be apolitical. Obviously, there was a notable exception this year [with the All-Star Game being moved from Atlanta to Denver]. Our desire is to avoid another exception to that general rule. We have a fan base that's diverse, has different points of view, and we'd like to keep the focus on the field, on the game.

It's harder than it used be.
Where do you even start with this garbage?

This is Major League Baseball. This has always been Major League Baseball. The one thing MLB does a pretty decent job at is convincing modern fans that its decades of racism is in the past. But a stain that large and that dark is hard to keep covered. Therefore, we hear, on a regular basis, reports of older white guys casually say racist or homophobic or sexist things. Like Jim Kaat's on-air conversation with Buck Showalter during the ALDS - an 82-year-old white guy talking to a 65-year-old white guy - about having a roster full of talented players and making an analogy to a plantation owner and his field of slaves.

And MLB wonders why it can't attract an younger audience or fans of color? Maybe it's time to introduce Scooter 2.0.

Manfred is a horrible commissioner. His actions since taking office display both a dislike of baseball and a desire to destroy it. In his fake crusade to cut the time of games, he got rid of the four-pitch intentional walk (which saves a team about five seconds per game on average), instituted a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers (hampering managerial strategy), and began extra-innings with a runner on second base (altering the structural foundation of the game after 150 years). Future gimmicks may include making the bases bigger and the ability for batters to "steal" first base. (I'm not kidding.) Now Manfred can add "blatantly endorsing racism" to his resume.

Also in 2017, Manfred said his office was considering implementing guidelines against fans using racial slurs in ball parks. I don't recall anything coming of that statement. We see now where Manfred stands about racist behaviour in Atlanta. He supports it.

Rob Manfred most likely does not consider himself a racist. However, he is a racist based on his statements and actions regarding the Chop and the chanting. An anti-racist person (and a non-coward) would immediately denounce those actions and take steps to prevent them from occurring in future games. 

And the Commissioner doesn't believe MLB markets itself on a nationwide basis? What the fuck is he talking about? The two leagues are called American and National, for god's sake. Its championship is called the World Series, although that has always been a misnomer and an great example of early-ish American exceptionalism.

Manfred claimed the Atlanta team has consulted with Native American leaders in Georgia, who feel the team's nickname is a source of pride. Manfred said that is the difference between Atlanta's situation and Cleveland's. However, the tribe to which Manfred alluded is a business partner and has been a corporate sponsor of the team for several years. The team has used the tribe as a public relations shield.

Craig Calcaterra's Cup of Coffee newsletter on Tuesday included information about this tribe that Manfred is using to spin or obfuscate the issue. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a federally-recognized tribe located in western North Carolina. They are descendants of the Cherokee who resisted relocation after the 1830 Indian Removal Act.
[Over] the past two years . . . the club has begun to use that relationship as a means of deflecting criticism for their use of Native iconography and for its encouragement of fans to do the Tomahawk Chop. They have a whole page devoted to that on their website, in fact, on which they tout how, "[o]ver the last year and a half, [they have] developed a cultural working relationship with them that has resulted in meaningful action." It should be noted that that year and a half time frame lines up exactly with the heat the Braves got in the 2019 postseason when they were criticized by Cardinals pitcher, and Native American, Ryan Helsley. That's no accident. The club reached out to the Eastern Band of Cherokee in a cynical and transparent effort at an image makeover.

That "working relationship" between the tribe and the club is close to invisible to casual fans, however, as there is almost zero in the way of apparent changes in how the team presents itself or its brand. But it has allowed useful idiots like Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports (and a big Braves fan) to carry water for the club [tweet] . . .

If you start talking about the Tomahawk Chop on Twitter you'll come across a lot of people shooting you that link or citing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as a get-out-of-racism free card like Sallee does here. There's only one problem with that: not even the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are OK with the Tomahawk Chop!

This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in October 2019, right after the Ryan Helsley stuff hit big:
Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed told the AJC that if the Braves consult with him, he'll say that he has no problem with the team name — which honors the warrior spirit — but it's time to hang up the tomahawk chop.

"That's just so stereotypical, like old-school Hollywood," Chief Sneed said. "Come on, guys. It's 2020. Let's move on. Find something else."
It's worth noting that the Eastern Band is alone as far as I can tell in being OK with the team's nickname, which every other Native tribe or advocacy group I've seen weigh in on it opposes it.

(Bolding is my emphasis.)

As Calcaterra points out, when the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which the team has been using as a type of 'some-of-my-best-friends-are-black' excuse, "are telling you that your racist war-whooping is beyond the pale, you probably need to rethink things".

In July 2020, it was reported that the Atlanta team was discussing the continued use of the Chop. This has apparently been a common way for the team to escape any periodic heat it gets about its public racism. The team has been "taking a hard look" at its offensive practices even since they began, more than 30 years ago.

During the 1991 World Series, CBS's Pat O'Brien stated:

The protests that continue here in Atlanta and across the country regarding the chopping, the chanting, and the war paint that have become such a big part of the whole Atlanta Braves scene, you'll see during the game that these protests have done little, if anything, to put a stop to this. But what the American Indian movement has done is to raise consciousness and put this issue on the agenda of the Braves and Major League Baseball, both of whom have pledged to give this matter a hard look after the World Series.

But as long as the Commissioner of Baseball supports the racist trifecta of the nickname, the chopping, and the chanting, Atlanta's ownership has no reason to truly rethink or take a hard look at anything.

1 comment:

allan said...

Calcaterra revisits this issue this morning, correcting calling Manfred a liar on several occasions:

"Major League Baseball has never been apolitical. The ballpark in the Atlanta burbs in question only exists because of backroom dealings between the Braves, the league, and public officials, and that story has been repeated in multiple cities all over the country. MLB likewise has a political action committee which raises and donates hundreds of thousands of dollars each election cycle. Manfred's most significant "accomplishment" during his tenure thus far, MLB's takeover and revamping of the entire minor league system, was effected with a huge assist from a federal law passed in 2019 which deprived minor leaguers of multiple labor law protections. The members of Congress who slipped that law onto page 1,967 of the 2,232 multi-trillion dollar spending bill were recipients of MLB's decidedly non-apolitical action.

The idea that Natives approve of the Tomahawk Chop is a lie. Manfred knows it's a lie. He, however, simply doesn't care it's a lie, because there is a chance that there would be less money made and controversy created if he or the team or anyone was to step in and discourage racism. The idea that Major League Baseball strives to be apolitical is also a lie, and a particularly laughable one that Manfred only offers because no one who he deigns to talk to will challenge him on it. And all of that tells you just about everything you need to know about Rob Manfred."

Calcaterra was surprised to see that there was no "over-the-top patriotism/militarism" surrounding last night's game. If I had watched, I would have been surprised, too.

"I was surprised when I got the MLB press release setting forth the World Series Game 1 and 2 pregame and in-game activities and found that there was almost nothing in the way of performative patriotism last night. . . . There was zero military stuff going on last night and, apart from a sailor singing the Anthem, none scheduled for tonight. No troop tributes. No corporate sponsor handing out American flags (yes, that has happened). No fighter jet or bomber flyovers (it is a dome, sure, but that hasn't stopped 'em in the past). Nothin'. I suppose we could see a bunch of that when the Series moves to Atlanta, but so far, so good."