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Indian Group Protests Braves’ Tomahawk Chops, Chants

October 13, 1996

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ An American Indian activist group protesting the Tomahawk Chop and chants by fans at Braves games in Atlanta demonstrated outside Busch Stadium on Sunday.

About a dozen protesters mingled near the Stan Musial statue about an hour before the Cardinals and Braves played Game 4 of the NL championship series. Most passersby walked on without stopping. A few in Braves hats or jerseys did a Tomahawk Chop or gave a thumbs down.

Vernon Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian and president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media. He said the group chose to protest in St. Louis to show support for the Cardinals.

``Most of you are going to say we ought to lighten up, or that we have more important things to deal with,″ said protester Frank Lamere, a Winnebago Indian from Oklahoma, said. ``But you cannot deal with those kinds of issues until you deal with basic human respect.″

Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz would not comment on the protest.

``I’ll talk about baseball, but I’m not into politics,″ Schuerholz said.

Harry Tarpley, a Braves fan from Nashville, did a Tomahawk Chop and yelled at Bellecourt as he walked by. The men engaged in a brief argument before Tarpley’s friends pulled him away.

``They’ve got no grievance whatsoever,″ Tarpley said. ``We have our rights just like they have theirs.″

American Indian groups in recent years have protested sports mascots and team nicknames connected to their heritage _ Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Illinois Fighting Illini, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs.

Some college teams have relented. Stanford changed its name from the Indians to the Cardinal. St. John’s, formerly the Redmen, is now the Red Storm.

The Tomahawk Chop became a tradition in 1991, when the Braves made their first of five straight postseason appearances. Fans also participate in a loud chant that protesters find offensive.

Protesters have appeared during every Braves postseason. Protests also were aimed at the Cleveland Indians last year. Bellecourt said his group, which is based in Minneapolis, will protest in Atlanta if the Braves make it to the World Series.