Mere months ago, former President Donald Trump was calling for a boycott of Major League Baseball. But on Saturday night, the former president went to Game 4 of the World Series and gleefully participated in the controversial “tomahawk chop” alongside Atlanta Braves fans. The gesture, which has long been a tradition at Braves games, has been widely characterized as racist and has been getting renewed attention after the team advanced to the World Series. “The chop, an embarrassing artifact of a different era, is about to go national,” warned David Pincus in Slate a few days ago.
Even as many have said the chant mocks Native Americans, some have come to its defense, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Amid the controversy, the stadium has led the fans in the chant in both Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. It’s not surprising Trump wanted to get in on the action considering he often tries to capitalize on these types of cultural divisions to appeal to his base. The former president released a statement Saturday claiming that he had been invited to the game by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and New York Yankees President Randy Levine. MLB denied that it made the invitation and said Trump “requested to attend the game.”
In April, Trump had called for a boycott of Major League Baseball after it announced it would be pulling the All-Star Game from Georgia in protest of the state’s restrictive voting law. But now he appears to have changed his mind as the Braves and the infamous gesture and chant have become part of the national conversation on racism and professional sports symbols. The Braves have received backing from Manfred, who has said that the “Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop.” The largest local tribe in the Atlanta region, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has indeed expressed support for the team. But many have said it’s hardly a local issue when the team gets such national exposure from the World Series.