Gov. Kemp says suggesting the Atlanta Braves change their name is 'woke cancel culture,' but Native Americans have found Indian mascots offensive for decades

Brian Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.AP Photo/Megan Varner
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said calls to change the Atlanta Braves' name are "woke cancel culture."

  • The White House said Monday that it's "important" to talk about the offensive team name.

  • Native American activists have been fighting to change sports mascots and team names for decades.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said efforts to change the name of the Atlanta Braves baseball team are the result of "woke cancel culture," but Native American communities have called out racist team names and mascots years before either term entered politicians' vocabularies.

After being asked about the team's visit to the White House Monday and "talk" of the team changing its name by Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream, Kemp pushed back, saying the "Braves respect and honor Native Americans."

"We've had meetings in the governor's office about that. I think, again, this is the woke cancel culture and really national values that are being... pushed down to our state and other states around the country," Kemp said.

President Joe Biden this week hosted the team to commemorate their World Series win in 2021. As a result of the visit, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the President's thoughts on the team's name and the tradition of the "tomahawk" hand chop at games, during Monday's White House press briefing.

"So, look, we — we believe that it's important to have this conversation," Jean-Pierre said, "and Native American and Indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation."

Many Native American leaders and groups have said they find the action offensive. Last year, Indigenous tribes called out Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred after he said tribes supported the "tomahawk chop," a motion the team's fans make by using their hands to mimic the slice of an axe.

The National Congress of American Indians also condemned Manfred's comments, saying the team imagery and name were "meant to depict and caricature not just one tribal community but all Native people."

"Consequently, the league and team have an obligation to genuinely listen to Tribal Nations and leaders across the United States about how the team's mascot impacts them," NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in a statement.

Native Americans have fought for decades to raise more awareness about the harms of using stereotypical Native imagery for sports teams. Just this year, the Washington Commanders NFL team replaced its former name, a slur against Native Americans, after 2020 brought calls for racial justice across the nation. But in 1992, Native groups were already taking steps to protest the name by asking the US Patent and Trademark Office to take away the team's right to use it.

According to the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum, team mascots, phrases, and other traditions that reference Native Americans reinforce harmful stereotypes to non-Native people. Imagery like the "tomahawk chop" portrays Natives as "barbarous," according to the museum.

Offensive mascots are detrimental to the mental health of Native children, research also shows.

The Braves and a representative for Kemp did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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