[10/14/19] – Atlanta Braves Racist Chant

This week we explore a part of the lingering legacy of Columbus’ maltreatment of indigenous nations in the United States. Several athletic teams bare the name of indigenous nations in one form or another. From the Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians to the Washington Redskins, sports functions as a means to normalize and reinforce labels of indigenous nations as violent, cartoonish, and brave. The last one brings us to this week’s topic, how the Atlanta Braves moved to stop their infamous chant and “tomahawk chop” during what would be the last game of their MLB post-season. A cacophony of voices on both sides of the argument have made their opinions known, and we explore both sides of the argument. Specifically, we focus on the social construction of race and racism, functions of racism, and sports as an agent of socialization.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Atlanta Braves Racist Chant

Learning Objectives

LO1: Understand and explain the issue of racist team logos and names from a functionalist and symbolic-interactionist perspective.

LO2: Discuss the role of athletes and athletics in acts of civil disobedience.

LO3: Explain radiating social effects of social construction of race and ethnicity in sports such as segregation and stereotypes.


What fans think about Braves’ decision to reduce Tomahawk Chop during game

The Atlanta Braves said Wednesday that they are going to take “several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop” during the game today after a Native American pitcher.

Cleveland Indians Among Team Names Under Fire

The Cleveland Indians is just one of many sports teams with controversial names.

Does baseball have a racism and homophobia problem?

Recently unearthed tweets from several players suggest that baseball still has a large problem with racism and homophobia.

Discussion Questions

How do sports influence how race and ethnicity are socially constructed in American culture? What sports are most influential in constructing how we understand varied social expectations placed on us by our race and ethnicity? How do sports serve to segregate society? How do athletic stereotypes serve to limit the progress in other areas of academia for certain populations?
From a functionalist perspective, who is benefitting from the existence of the Atlanta Braves? What jobs are tied to this team and this brand? How might stopping the use of the foam tomahawk have unintended consequences such as people losing their job or their home? Do the benefits of continued use of this brand outweigh the social consequences of maintaining its existence? Why or why not?
What is the role of team ownership in the maintenance of the offensive brands? What about players and fans? What would it take for all indigenous people’s logos to be removed and replaced? How would this alter American culture, and perhaps even social order?
From a symbolic-interactionist perspective, how might exposure to caricatures of indigenous populations influence the way one views issues facing these populations? For example, how might the prevalence of sports teams with indigenous peoples as logos influence sentiment toward exploitation of their land for capital gains, as with the Dakota Access Pipe Line?
Can you think of other examples of how athletes have challenged the status quo on race and ethnic relations in the United States? Is it the place of athletes to make these types of decisions and to use their platform to advance political agendas? Why or why not?



1. A structural-functionalist would most likely be interested in investigating which of the following research questions relative to this issue…

a. How do individual athletes who are indigenous populations experience playing against and/or for teams with mascots and logos that can be considered offensive?
b. Why do some people perceive the Atlanta Braves removing the chant and tomahawk to be unnecessary?
c. What is the role of governing agencies that regulate sports and teams in allowing such mascots to exist in the first place?
d. Where in the United States are the most teams with indigenous peoples as mascots?

2. What is an example of a radiating social effect that manifests from the social construction of race and ethnicity through sports?

a. Segregation
b. Stereotypes
c. Racism
d. All of the above

3. Which of the following agents of socialization has the most influence in determining most of who we become, including our interest in and awareness of athletics?

a. Social Media
b. Family
c. Friends
d. Schools


Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/peepo

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