A prominent baseball columnist for USA Today says he refuses to use the Atlanta professional baseball team's nickname when covering the club because he says it is offensive to Native Americans.
"While I can’t stop the tomahawk chop or make Atlanta change its name, what I can do is not acknowledge the nickname," longtime baseball writer Bob Nightengale wrote in a column published on Wednesday. "In recent years, I have tried to avoid using Atlanta’s nickname in columns. I find it offensive, and after talking and listening to Native American leaders, friends and associates, it only fortifies my belief."
Editors at USA Today have, at times, changed his copy back to include the team's name because "until now this has been my private stance," he said.
"Several readers picked up on the name appearing in my articles during Atlanta’s World Series run, and after talking it over with my editors, I have decided to explain my stance here and make more of a concerted effort to keep the name out of my columns," Nightengale wrote.
Roxanna P. Scott, Managing Editor of USA Today Sports, told the Hill on Wednesday that the outlet does not have a blanket policy for its journalists covering the Atlanta baseball team.
"Bob has determined on his own how he will refer to the team in his columns, and he has our full support," Scott said.
The MLB team, which has in recent years removed the logo of a Cherokee Native American from its uniforms, said last year it would discourage fans from doing the famous "Tomahawk Chop" at the team's home games.
“As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience,” the Braves said in a statement at the time. “We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes."
This week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about MLB's stance on the team's name. The club is playing in the World Series for the first time since the 1990s.
“I think it’s important to understand that we have 30 markets in the country,’’ Manfred told reporters. “Not all are the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop."
But Nightengale said he "hates" the nickname, saying it is "racist and offensive," and describing his shock "at the hardened stance club leaders have taken."
"Perhaps the chop will go away once Atlanta changes its nickname, but 'traditions' in the South have a bad habit of sticking around, no matter how many folks are offended," he wrote, noting the club sent a memo to season ticket holders recently assuring them the name will never be changed. "It’s their prerogative. It’s also mine not to use their nickname."
The Braves defeated the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.
--Updated at 3:42 p.m.