The other day, I wrote that baseball is not a morality play. I meant that the outcome of baseball games and baseball seasons has nothing to do with morality. There are no “baseball gods.” Nice guys finish first, last, and in the middle. So do guys who aren’t nice.
This doesn’t mean that fans should keep their moral views on the sidelines when thinking about baseball. It’s normal for fans to root against players and teams that offend their moral sensibilities.
In this year’s World Series, one of the teams — the Houston Astros — cheated on a large scale just a few years ago. They used technology to steal other teams’ signs, thus gaining an advantage by knowing in some cases what pitch was coming. Several players who gained this advantage are still important members of the Astros.
Personally, I don’t hate the Astros for yielding to the temptation to gain an edge in this extremely difficult, high-stakes sport. Given the opportunity, I believe many players would have taken advantage of the same or similar technology, and it’s possible that other teams did so and weren’t caught.
However, other things being equal, I’ll favor a team that, as far as is known, didn’t cheat over one that is known to have cheated. This is one reason why I’m rooting for the Atlanta Braves in this World Series.
But for some on the woke left, other things aren’t equal. Why? Because the Braves name is appropriated from Native Americans, and Atlanta fans do the tomahawk chop.
The Washington Post’s Kevin Blackistone, who was race obsessed before being race obsessed was cool, says he prefers the Astros to the Braves because they “mistreated their sport” whereas “the Braves mistreat human beings.”
If one is offended by the name “Braves” and/or the chop, then it makes sense to be inclined to root against the Atlanta baseball team. But the argument that there’s something wrong with either the name or the chop doesn’t make much sense. (NOTE: John makes this argument here. I wrote this post before I saw John’s.)
I understood why some people considered “Washington Redskins” a racist name. “Redskins” seems like a demeaning term — arguably a slur. But that’s certainly not true of “Braves.”
With the slur argument unavailable, the professional grievance mongers and their woke allies in journalism claim that it’s dehumanizing, and therefore racist, to use a racial or ethnic group member as a mascot. Does this mean the Minnesota Vikings are indulging in racism against Scandinavians? Of course not, and neither are the Atlanta Braves being racist.
As for the tomahawk chop, John has pointed out that Jane Fonda performed it non-stop during the 1991 World Series. Is she a racist?
Hank Aaron was an Atlanta Braves executive and the face of the franchise. He didn’t seem to mind the tomahawk chop. Did that make him a racist?
The commissioner of baseball says that the local Cherokee tribes in the Southeast are on board with the name “Braves” and the club’s various exercises in Indian symbolism. How can that be, if the name and the chop are racist?
Activists say these tribal leaders are “Indians for hire.” Now that’s demeaning.
Two of the Post’s main baseball writers, Adam Kilgore and Chelsea Janes, cite a University of Michigan psychology professor who says research shows that Native American mascots decrease Native American youths’ self-esteem and their belief in the worth of their community. These mascots supposedly increase anxiety, stress, and suicide ideation.
expert junk scientist I would have loved to depose.
The Cherokee High School football team in North Carolina calls itself the Braves. I don’t think they would do that if it caused anxiety, stress, and suicide ideation among Native American youths. And I don’t think a professor with an ax to grind is a more reliable guide to the effect of Indian mascots on the young than those who are actually trying to educate Native American youths.
The Kilgore/Janes column argues that one day, and perhaps soon, people will come to see what Fonda, Aaron, and so many others have missed — the racism of the Braves’ name and chop. This is the “arc of history” line (you can’t really call it an argument) made popular by Barack Obama.
I doubt that Obama had special knowledge of where history will take us. I’m convinced that Washington Post sportswriters don’t.
But let’s assume they are right. Let’s assume that, as one activist quoted with approval by Kilgore/Janes puts it, the grandchildren of the owners today are going to say: ‘Boy, Grandpa was a racist. He didn’t realize it, but he was a racist.’
That wouldn’t make the grandchildren’s view correct. It would just make the grandchildren “woke.”
Speaking of the future, the tomahawk chop seems likely to persist for a good while. From the look of things, nearly all fans at Braves games perform the chop. Suppose the team yields to pressure and abandons the current team name. Would this stop fans from doing the chop?
Maybe, but maybe not. Probably not, I think.
What happens then? Do the Braves try to ban the chop? Do they expel fans who do it?
I think it makes more sense for the Braves to stay on the right side of their fans than to try to get on what leftists claim is the right side of history.
It’s true that keeping fans happy is no justification for racism. But for the reasons presented above, the argument that the Braves are indulging in racism doesn’t withstand scrutiny, in my view.