“Then there are people like me,” she said. “We’re saying what the Braves do is humiliating. It makes it easier for our communities to be marginalized, traumatized and objectified.”
Welch’s evolution on the subject embodies its nuance. Like many Native Americans, she did not think twice about her love for the Washington Football Team and Atlanta’s pro baseball team when she was growing up. It was a family thing, and she knew many families who felt similarly.
But then she became one of the few who left the tribe’s land, headed off to college and did not come back. From the outside, she saw things differently. Now she adamantly opposes the fake chants and the cartoonish team names and mascots at every level of sports.
Some Native American schools use the imagery, a relic of early 20th century efforts to assimilate. Welch graduated from Cherokee High, which uses “Braves” as its nickname. She wants that moniker gone from her school, too.
The Eastern Band’s leadership has taken a different tack.
The tribal chief, Richard Sneed, helped orchestrate a cultural partnership with the M.L.B. team after it reached out three years ago, he said.
The tribe’s casino has long been a corporate sponsor of the team, and the cultural partnership, he said, brings the tribe extra publicity. He added that the team had produced a video telling the Eastern Band’s story and had contributed roughly $30,000 to the tribe.
Sneed has no issue with the name, seeing it as a reflection of strength, but he rolls his eyes at the chop. “I don’t necessarily have an issue with people swinging their arm, but the whole war chant, that’s hokey,” he said. “I told them, man, that’s like 1940s, 1950s spaghetti western stuff.”