Opinion: Two American pastimes, baseball and racism, will be on display at World Series

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At Game 3 of the World Series in Atlanta, bank presidents who would be fired for uttering a racist word in a meeting or making a racist gesture in their office will joyously swing their arms while yelling a faux war chant in the Braves’ ritual known as the "tomahawk chop."

High school teachers who lead students through a semester on the treatment of Native Americans in U.S. history will turn on their cell phone lights in the stadium darkness as they chant and whoop and swing those arms during pitching changes. So will real estate brokers who would never, ever deny selling a home to a person of color or other minority.

Friday night, two American pastimes meet: baseball and racism.

Atlanta Braves fans do the tomahawk chop during the National League Division Series.
Atlanta Braves fans do the tomahawk chop during the National League Division Series.

Adamantly defying a wave of immense social change in sports in this country, the Braves and Major League Baseball will give their racist chant its ultimate platform, a national and international airing of the worst of America, a showcase of U.S. racism for the entire world to see.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Braves’ leadership could have stopped this. Manfred pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta earlier this year due to the passage of a restrictive voting rights law in Georgia.

He had the guts to do that, but then failed miserably this week when he tried to make the tomahawk chop a local issue, essentially saying that this is what the fans in Atlanta want, adding, “We don’t market our game on a nationwide basis.”

The big problem with that excuse is that it’s called the World Series, which seems to be the opposite of local. Would Manfred allow a noose to hang from the upper deck because it was a local noose? Would he allow a cross to burn in the Braves’ parking lot because some local guy lighted the fire?

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As a cultural leader in this country, Manfred absolutely blew it. We know where history is going on these issues, whether it be the Washington Football Team or the Cleveland Guardians, and it’s definitely not the way Manfred went this week.

Of course there are those who agree with Manfred and the Braves, people who say that this is no big deal. They say that the mocking of Native Americans in name, logo and chant is actually respectful of Native Americans, which is not only ridiculous, it’s exactly the same excuse the WFT used to defend the “R” word, and we all know how that turned out.

For years, NFL leadership was afraid to stand up to Washington owner Dan Snyder until capitalism took over and sponsors forced the change. That’s where MLB is today with the Braves’ Mad Men leadership, people who not only encourage racist behavior, but also brought in anti-vaxxer Travis Tritt to sing the national anthem last weekend. That MLB allowed that deadly message to be sent by one of its teams to its fan base is reprehensible.

With all this nonsense going on in Atlanta, can Donald Trump, the loser of the last presidential election, be far behind? The answer is no. He is showing up Saturday for Game 4. Of course he is. With racist chants and anti-vaxxers in the house, he needs to be there. Perhaps the Braves can really do it up and turn the seventh inning stretch into an homage to the Jan. 6 insurrection, with video highlights of Trumpers storming the Capitol and a round of applause for the people who wanted to hang Mike Pence.

Because many people realize just how awful all of this is, there have been calls for broadcasters to refrain from showing the tomahawk chop when Atlanta fans embarrass themselves from one inning to the next this weekend.

That’s entirely the wrong approach. The networks must show it. They should show the rest of the nation, and the world, exactly what is going on in Atlanta. Give us closeups of the bank president, the high school teacher, the real estate broker. Let us see their faces. Let their children and grandchildren and neighbors see them too.

Show it. Show every single second of it, over and over again. Let the world see what MLB has wrought.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Racist tomahawk chop on display at Atlanta's World Series this weekend