In the summer of 2020 and the months that followed, messages from schools and sports teams flooded Aaron Payment’s inbox. Spurred by momentous change at higher levels, people wanted to know why they should and how they could change a Native American team name and logo. As secretary of the National Congress of American Indians, Payment saw the ripple effects.

“There’s a movement,” Payment said. “And we will not go back.”

When the World Series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday night, television viewers will see a pocket of resistance. While other professional sports franchises have backed away from or removed ties to Native American imagery, the Atlanta Braves have retrenched. In late innings and key moments, fans yell a faux war chant and swing their arms in a ritual known as the “tomahawk chop.” At Truist Park, which opened in 2017, a giant neon tomahawk beyond the center field fence slashes along with the crowd. Fans can dine at the Coors Light Chop House overlooking right field.

To University of Michigan psychology professor Stephanie Fryberg, who is widely recognized as the leading expert on Native American mascots and their effects, Manfred’s claim of local tribal support is irrelevant. More than 20 years of research, she said, shows Native American mascots decrease Native American youths’ self-esteem and their belief in the worth of their community. They increase anxiety, stress and suicide ideation. The psychological benefits for Indigenous people being associated with mascots, Fryberg said, are nonexistent.

Those conclusions serve as Fryberg’s retort to the notion that Native Americans have bigger problems to confront than the imagery of sports teams.

Read the full article at The Washington Post.