Fans of the Atlanta Braves arrived at SunTrust Park on Wednesday hoping to see their favorite team reign victorious in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. However, they were greeted by a different site, which was empty seats. There were no foam tomahawks on hand, which was due to criticism from St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Ryan Helsley.
As a Native American and member of the Cherokee tribe, Helsley recently commented that the foam tomahawks and the accompanying chant, the Tomahawk Chant, were a disappointment. In response, the Braves removed the tomahawks and agreed to not play the music during the postseason battle.
"[It] just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren't intellectual," Helsley said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "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 it devalues us and how we're perceived in that way, or used as mascots."
The Braves had previously placed these foam tomahawks at each seat prior to games 1 and 2 of this series against the Cardinals as part of an effort to fire up the crowd and create a home-field advantage.
“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today," the Braves said in a statement. "Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game.
"As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.”
Helsley was informed of the decision prior to game 5, and he was pleased with the Braves' making an effort to change this situation for the better.
"I think they're taking the right steps," Helsley said, per ESPN. "I think it's a positive thing. Fans might not like it, but maybe they can reflect back on it and see it was a good move."
Midway through the game, the Braves fans were less concerned about the lack of foam tomahawks than they were with the score. The hometown team had scored a mere one run compared to 13 by the Cardinals and victory seemed to be a pipe dream.
(Photo Credit: Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)