Georgia’s Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, issued a joint statement Monday saying they were “adamantly opposed” to changing the name of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which has been described as racist by Native Americans and allies.
The statement was issued a day after Loeffler became embroiled in controversy for posing with a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan in a photograph.
Loeffler and Perdue said the name of the baseball franchise “honors our nation’s Native American heritage”:
The senators, both facing runoff elections on Jan. 6 that will determine which party controls the Senate, issued the statement as the Cleveland Indians baseball team reportedly was preparing to change its name.
The Braves told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July that the team was standing by the name. Still, team officials said they were discussing the controversial “tomahawk chop” chant that fans repeat at the start of games and as a rallying cry.
Far from honoring Native Americans, such names, mascots and chants demean them, indigenous leaders say.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, complained last year after a game against the Braves that the team’s “tomahawk chop” chant depicts Native Americans as “caveman-type people.”
“They are a lot more than that,” Helsley told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Appropriating Native American names for something unconnected to their culture “devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots,” he said.
In July, Washington’s National Football League team announced it would no longer be called the Redskins, a derogatory and racist name that has drawn intense criticism from fans and Native American activists. The franchise is currently known as the Washington Football Team.
Last weekend, the Jewish activist organization Bend the Arc retweeted a photo of Loeffler posing with Chester Doles, a former KKK leader who served time in prison for almost beating a Black man to death. Loeffler’s campaign claimed she had no idea who Doles was.
But in September, Doles was ejected from a campaign rally featuring Loeffler and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the Journal-Constitution reported. Loeffler said then that she was unaware of any controversy linked to Doles.