Only months after calling for a boycott of Major League Baseball, Donald Trump did the “tomahawk chop” with Atlanta Braves fans at Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
The former president stood beside his wife, Melania, as he made the chopping motion with fans before the game between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros.
The chop has been a gameday tradition at Braves games since 1991. However, it has come under scrutiny at this year’s World Series, at a time when other US teams have wrestled with their use of Native American names and imagery.
Last week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Native Americans “have been unwaveringly supportive” of the chop, a reference to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who work with the Braves. However, many other groups say the chop perpetuates stereotypes of Native Americans as primitive warriors.
“We have repeatedly and unequivocally made our position clear – Native people are not mascots, and degrading rituals like the ‘tomahawk chop’ that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society,” National Congress of American Indians president Fawn Sharp said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Trump was joined by political allies including the Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, in a private suite as the Braves came from behind to win 3-2 and move one win from a first championship since 1995.
Trump released a statement in an email to supporters about his World Series appearance: “Looking forward to being at the World Series in Atlanta tonight. Thank you to the commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, and Randy Levine of the New York Yankees, for the invite. Melania and I are looking forward to a wonderful evening watching two great teams!”
MLB denied making the invitation and said in a statement: “He requested to attend the game.”
Levine is the Yankees president.
The visit to Truist Park provided Trump an opportunity to be seen with Walker, who was a football star at the University of Georgia before playing in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, as well as the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.
Trump was an owner of the Generals when Walker played for the team in the now-defunct league, and they have maintained a relationship. Trump encouraged Walker to run for Senate.
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, endorsed Walker on Wednesday. Walker is seeking to unseat the Democratic senator Raphael Warnock, formerly a preacher at a church once home to Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Trump encouraged a boycott of MLB games after Manfred removed this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta. The game instead was held in Denver.
Manfred’s decision, announced in April, followed protests of Georgia’s new voting law, which includes an ID requirement for mail-in votes. Critics say the law will negatively affect communities of color.
President Joe Biden supported moving the game, though some Braves fans and businesses near Truist Park complained they were being unfairly punished.
Trump may have selected Atlanta in hopes of a more positive reception than he received in his last World Series appearance. When in office, he was booed when he sat in the stands at Game 5 in 2019, between the Astros and Washington at Nationals Park in DC.
On Saturday, Trump was not shown on the Truist Park video board before the game.