ST. LOUIS — The Atlanta Braves are promising to continue their dialogue with the Native American community in the wake of St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley‘s criticism of the tomahawk chop chant.
Helsley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he thinks the chant is insulting, and the 25-year-old rookie was disappointed when it was heard during Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Atlanta.
Helsley is a member of the Cherokee Nation. The Tahlequah, Oklahoma, native speaks the Cherokee language and is one of only a few Native Americans in the majors.
The Braves say they “appreciate and take seriously” Helsley’s concerns. The team says it has “worked to honor and respect the Native American community through the years.”
“Our organization has sought to embrace all people and highlight the many cultures in Braves Country,” the team said Saturday in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the in-game experience, and look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community once the season comes to an end.”
Hearing the chant by the fans, a part of the Braves’ tradition since it was borrowed from Florida State in the early 1990s, was a shock for Helsley.
Helsley told the Post-Dispatch he was insulted by what he saw and heard in Thursday’s series opener.
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley said before the Braves’ 3-0 victory in Friday’s Game 2.
“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 not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The [Washington] Redskins and stuff like that.”