Braves fans fear another Atlanta team collapse following the Dodgers' 11-2 victory in Los Angeles Thursday to avoid defeat in the National League Championship Series.
With the Braves holding a 3-2 lead in the series, the teams return to Atlanta's Truist Park for Saturday's sixth game and a possible seventh game Sunday. The winner will advance to the World Series against either the Astros or Red Sox.
The return to Atlanta will focus renewed attention on the tomahawk chop and chant, frequently condemned in the national media as disparaging to Native Americans. Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke in writing about the series has several times called the chant racist.
Plaschke also drew Atlantans' ire by ridiculing Truist Park and the adjacent Battery, saying they were like suburban malls lacking soul. The Battery has more excitement than Dodgers Stadium, a 1960s relics perched on a hill in a sea of parking lots.
But although Plaschke ignores that Dodgers Stadium was built on a site expropriated from a Mexican-American community, he's right that the chop should be retired.
Braves management two years ago announced they would consider ending the chop after St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Hensley, a native Cherokee, said he was offended by the fan ritual.
The team stopped playing the chant on the public address system, but the chop lives on spontaneously, encouraged by the scoreboard image of two giant tomahawks pulsing with a lurid glow. Truist Field's outfield restaurant is called the Chop House, and tomahawk images remain on the team's uniforms.
TBS has received criticism for focusing on Braves fans engaged in the chop during its broadcasts of the first two games of the series, dramatically won by the Braves. But it would be difficult for the network to avoid showing the excited fans.
Former Braves outfielder and National Football League great Deion Sanders reportedly brought the chop to Atlanta in the early 1990s from his alma mater Florida State, where the chant is a fixture of Seminoles football games.
The spectacle of fans performing the chop in unison became a defining part of the team's image. Generations of Atlanta fans have joined in the ritual, as much a part of going to games as beer, hot dogs and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.
But it's time for the chop to stop.