Native American iconography is hardly unusual in sports: The Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Atlanta Braves--professional American teams have a habit of choosing names and mascots that are now politically correct at best, and terribly offensive at worst.
The Braves got into trouble earlier this off-season, selecting a logo for the team's spring training caps that was more racist than usual: a throwback logo sometimes used from 1967 to 1989, featuring a "screaming savage," rather than the standard script "A" or the tomahawk on the front of some of the jerseys.
Fans, predictably, were upset by the decision, particularly because other organizations have been doing just the opposite. Monday, the organization decided to reverse their choice, going with the classic "A" caps instead.
The Indians have been slowly distancing themselves from their mascot, Chief Wahoo, and Redskins fans, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, have openly mused about changing their team's name.
And baseball writers were mystified.
"There is no excuse for the Braves and the screaming Indian, however," wrote a columnist for NBC's "Hardball Talk". He has been dead for some time and there is no reason why the Braves and Major League Baseball can’t put a stop to that new cap before a single one is sold. It’s the right thing to do and I’d hope they’d know it.
"It's a wonder that anyone ever thought the image was OK," wrote Kevin Kaduk, of Yahoo's "Big League Stew". The logo strips Native Americans of any humanity and turns them into a one-dimensional character devoid of any sympathy or tribute.
Team president John Schuerholtz defended the decision process in an interview with MLB.com.
"I like the selection we made this year," Schuerholtz said. "We had a variety of choices that we looked at, some more thoroughly than others. But at the end, we liked this one. The fact that one person somewhere offered his personal opinion about one of our options, that was important to him.
"When we made our decisions, we tried to contemplate. We tried to be creative. We tried to carry on the theme of our organization and we think this script A does that. It is part of the continuum of the uniform look we have. We've never had one that looks like this during Spring Training."
The Braves, along with most major league baseball teams, will begin their spring training pre-seasons this week in Florida and Arizona.