Braves fan Nick Dimitropoulos was fined $1,000 for his tomahawk chop celebration during a home game in June. After the commissioner’s office called him out about it, he said that “all I did was give a traditional Native American victory gesture.” Now Manfred says the decision is not a matter for any one group but rather an issue best decided by Atlanta and its native community.
The “tomahawk chop” gesture made by Atlanta Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is a matter for the city’s Native American community, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said.
HOUSTON, Texas — Commissioner Rob Manfred of Major League Baseball is deferring to the Native American community in and around Atlanta on whether it’s proper for the Braves to encourage the tomahawk chop gesture during the World Series, which will be held there this weekend for Games 3-5.
“It’s critical to remember we have 30 markets around the nation,” Manfred said before Tuesday’s game between the Braves and the Astros. “They aren’t all alike. The Braves have done an outstanding job working with Native Americans.”
The Native American population in the Atlanta area, according to Manfred “is a firm believer in the Braves’ program, including the trade. That, in my opinion, is the conclusion of the narrative.”
However, among Native American tribes, including those with roots to the area, perspectives on the gesture have evolved throughout time. The National Council of American Indians has demanded that the team’s moniker, as well as the chop, be dropped.
The concerns have become more pressing this year, since the Cleveland Indians have changed their name from the Indians to the Guardians. Manfred’s response to a probable Atlanta moniker change was the same as his response to the chop: “This is a local problem.”
“Each market is unique,” he said. “Atlanta built a connection with the Native American community long before this became a problem, which was extremely beneficial in making choices like the two that have been raised.”
Tony Clark, the president of the MLB Players Association, said he’d want to talk about anything in baseball that has an influence on social concerns. One of them is this.
“Any topic that generates or sparks the kind of discussion that you’re seeing in Atlanta is worthy of discussion,” Clark said. “I’m sure there are things that connect with me as a Black guy, and we can infer that there are things that resonate with others as well. And if that’s one of them, then it’s deserving of some discussion.”
Manfred was asked whether he would alter his mind if Native American groups outside of Atlanta objected to the gesture.
“We don’t sell our game nationally,” Manfred said. “Ours is a game that we play on a regular basis. Every day, you must sell tickets to fans in that market. In terms of how the game is promoted, there are many distinctions between clubs and areas.”
In the 2019 playoffs, Cherokee pitcher Ryan Helsley of the St. Louis Cardinals complained about the chop as his club was playing the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta made steps to discourage it, but it has subsequently been revived. This has been prominent throughout the Braves’ playoff home games.
Atlanta will host the World Series’ middle games only months after Commissioner Rob Manfred relocated the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver because to voting rights concerns in Georgia. According to reports at the time, he was concerned that certain players might object to their participation in the game. On Tuesday, the commissioner was asked whether it’s becoming more difficult for sports to keep out of political matters.
He described it as “harder than it used to be.” “We’ve always attempted to be apolitical.” This year, there was a major exception. Our goal is to avoid making a new exception to that general norm.
“We have a varied fan base with a variety of viewpoints. We’d prefer to keep the spotlight on the playing field.”
Another pregame issue was the league’s and players’ union’s current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire soon. It will run out on December 1st. There’s a potential the owners may lock the players out if a new contract isn’t agreed.
Manfred said, “It’s our first priority.” “In collective bargaining, you win if you get an agreement.”
According to sources close to the discussions, most of the major financial concerns have still to be resolved, but both parties are putting on a brave front with five weeks to go.
“We’ve taken use of the days we had at the All-Star Game so far, and we want to take advantage of the days we have leading up to and through the expiry,” Clark said.
“The most important element is that I know our clubs are 100 percent dedicated to the notion of reaching an agreement by December 1,” Manfred continued.
Potential adjustments to on-field rules will also be discussed during CBA discussions. The commissioner’s main concern is the duration of a game, which has increased by nearly three minutes this year to 3:10. A pitch clock is becoming a genuine possibility, since it is being tried at different levels of baseball.
“There will come a day when the pressure to change will be enough,” Manfred added. “I like to accomplish it via negotiation with the players.”
This article was based on information from The Associated Press.
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