Covering All the Bases
Oklahoma Today|September/October 2020
Covering All the Bases
Tahlequah’s Ryan Helsley is bringing his brand of conscientious sportsmanship to the Big Leagues.
PRESTON JONES

RYAN HELSLEY NEVER intended to become a spokesman.

Last October, as the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves in game one of the National League Division Series, relief pitcher Helsley found himself on the mound inside Atlanta’s SunTrust Park as the sold-out crowd began waving foam tomahawks and chanting the Tomahawk Chop.

While he was not the target of the chants, Helsley—a Tahlequah native and proud member of the Cherokee Nation—pointed out to a St. Louis PostDispatch reporter the myopia of such public displays.

“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley told the Post-Dispatch after the game. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. It’s just disrespectful, I think.”

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September/October 2020