The remarks by Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, came as the Cardinals and Braves meet in a National League Division Series as part of the MLB Postseason.
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsely told reporters at Atlanta's SunTrust Park, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
For years, "The Chop" has been a tradition for Braves fans. They lift foam tomahawks and start chanting whenever the visiting team calls in a relief pitcher.
Helsley, who witnessed “The Chop” when he came out to pitch in the 8th inning of Game 1 of the Cardinals-Braves series, said it reflects a "caveman" view of Native Americans.
“It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing,” he said. “It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.” (The NFL's Washington Redskins have faced criticism for the team's name over the years, but the club's owners have argued against changing it.)
Helsley told the Post-Dispatch he didn’t notice "The Chop" while he was pitching, but it made an impression on him earlier in the game.
"The Chop” came to be part of the Braves’ fan experience decades after the team moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee during the 1960s.
It originated with Florida State football. The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave written permission for the team to use it.
“The Braves have taken steps to take out the Tomahawk Chop,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in February.
But, the Post-Dispatch noted, #ChopOn is an official team hashtag.
“That’s the disappointing part,” Helsley told the Post-Dispatch. “That stuff like this still goes on. It’s just disrespectful, I think.”
“Using our heritage as a mascot – it isn’t the best thing," he said. "There have been schools who in the past 20, 30 years have changed their mascots. I don’t see why professional teams are so far behind on that."