(Atlanta) As his adopted hometown mourned his passing, some Atlanta Braves fans demanded that the team’s name be changed to honor legendary power hitter Hank Aaron’s nickname – the “Hammers”.
“Hammerin’Hank” passed away on Friday at the age of 86, garnering tributes from across the United States – including the current president and past – for his prolific baseball career. Aaron also offered a healthy dose of hope to the African American community by overcoming lingering racism as he chased Major League Baseball’s record for career homers.
The governors of Georgia and Alabama have ordered flags at half mast in honor of Aaron – the “Hammer” was born in the port city of Mobile, but lived in Atlanta for most of his life .
The Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta United (MLS) and Georgia Tech University Football (NCAA) have indicated they will retire Aaron’s No.44 next season. This number had been withdrawn a long time ago by the Braves.
Social networks then ignited so that the name of the baseball team was replaced by the nickname of Aaron. Even a petition has been posted to this effect.
“There are two important criteria for making a name change: 1) It must pay homage to an icon who has represented our city with class and dignity for nearly 50 years, and 2) It must erase the harm caused by the that our city has a team that smears the names of Indigenous peoples, especially since one of the greatest tragedies in American history, the “Trail of Tears” – this event denotes the displacement of several Indigenous peoples by the government American between 1831 and 1838 – began in the area where the team is located, ”the petition read.
The Braves reiterated that they did not want to change the name, as they see it as a tribute to Indigenous peoples, not an insult.
The team took some precautions during the playoffs in 2019, however, to cover up controversial symbols, especially after St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley – who is part of the Cherokee community – complained about the legendary Tomahawk Chop. of the team.
Thus, the Braves did not distribute red Styrofoam tomahawks before the decisive game of the series, won by the Cards. They also stopped playing the rhythmic music that encourages supporters to mimic the tomahawk gesture with their arms.
Braves officials have not said whether or not these changes will be permanent when spectators return to the stands for games, but have removed the “Chop On” sign near the entrance to SunTrust Park.
In recent months, some supporters have started suggesting new logos to replace the iconic tomahawk, including a hammer resembling it.
There is no indication that Aaron’s passing will make a difference at this level. The National League’s oldest franchise started using the Braves name over 100 years ago when playing in Boston.
The team then called themselves the Bees in 1936, before reverting to their original name of Braves in 1941.
Last year, the Washington football team changed its name, described as “insulting and condescending” by Meriam-Webster. The Cleveland Indians have also announced that they will be changing their name and logo, but not until the end of the 2021 season.
The Braves are one of many North American sports franchises that rely on nicknames inspired by Indigenous communities, along with the Kansas City Chiefs (NFL), Golden State Warriors (NBA) and Chicago Blackhawks (NHL).