The Atlanta Braves is an American professional baseball team based in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Braves compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) East division. The name "Braves", which was first used in 1912, originates from a term for a Native American warrior. They are nicknamed "the Bravos", and often referred to as "America's Team" in reference to the team's games being broadcast on the nationally available TBS from the 1970s until 2007, giving the team a nationwide fan base.
The Braves and the Chicago Cubs are the National League's two remaining charter franchises. The Braves were founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1871, as the Boston Red Stockings (not to be confused with the American League's Boston Red Sox). The team states it is "the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in America." After various name changes, the team eventually began operating as the Boston Braves, which lasted for most of the first half of the 20th century. Then, in 1953, the team moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and became the Milwaukee Braves, followed by their move to Atlanta in 1966.
From 1945 to 1955 the Braves primary logo consisted of the head of an Indian warrior. From 1956 to 1965 it was a laughing Indian with a mohawk and one feather in his hair. When the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, the "Braves" script was added underneath the laughing Indian. In 1985, the Braves made a small script change to the logo. The Braves modern logo debuted in 1987. The modern logo is the word "Braves" in cursive with a tomahawk below it. In 2018, the Braves made a subtle color change to the primary logo.
The tomahawk chop was adopted by fans of the Atlanta Braves in 1991. Carolyn King, the Braves organist, had played the "tomahawk song" during most at bats for a few seasons, but it finally caught on with Braves fans when the team started winning. The usage of foam tomahawks led to criticism from Native American groups that it was "demeaning" to them and called for them to be banned. In response, the Braves' public relations director said that it was "a proud expression of unification and family". King, who did not understand the sociopolitical ramifications, approached one of the Native American chiefs who were protesting. The chief told her that leaving her job as an organist would not change anything and that if she left "they'll find someone else to play."
The controversy has persisted since and became national news again during the 2019 National League Division Series. During the series, St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher and Cherokee Nation member, Ryan Helsley was asked about the chop and chant. Helsley said he found the fans' chanting and arm-motions insulting and that the chop depicts natives "in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren't intellectual." The relief pitcher's comments prompted the Braves to stop handing out foam tomahawks, playing the chop music or showing the chop graphic when the series returned to Atlanta for Game 5. The Braves released a statement saying they would "continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience" and that they would continue a "dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes."
The heads of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Cherokee Nation both condemned the chop and chant.
During the off-season, the Braves met with the National Congress of American Indians to start discussing a path forward. In July 2020, the team faced mounting pressure to change their name after the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins announced they were discussing brand change. The Braves released a statement announcing that discussions were still ongoing about the chop, but the team name would not be changed.