As is often the case at Braves home games, Atlanta fans at SunTrust Park during Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cardinals performed the "tomahawk chop" chant and gesture -- usually with the aid of foam tomahawks -- early and often. That was also the case when Cardinals right-hander Ryan Helsley entered the game in the eighth inning of the eventual St. Louis win.
Helsley, as it turns out, is an Oklahoma native and a member of the Cherokee Nation. Here's what he had to say about the chop:
Cards' Ryan Helsley, whose mother is full-blooded Cherokee, on the Braves' Tomahawk Chop: “It kind of devalues our Cherokee heritage and the Native-American history. Us as Cherokee native people went through a lot in this country."— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) October 4, 2019
And here's more from Helsley, via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"I think it's a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general," Helsley said Friday afternoon at SunTrust Park. "Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren't intellectual. They are a lot of 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 Redskins and stuff like that.
"That's the disappointing part," he continued in a conversation with The Post-Dispatch. "That stuff like this still goes on. It's just disrespectful, I think."
Goold's story has more, including additional comments from Helsley and also some background on how Braves fans came to start doing the chop, so be sure to give it a full read.
On Saturday, the Braves released a statement in response to Helsley's criticisms:
"We appreciate and take seriously the concerns of Mr. Helsley and have 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. 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."