By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Former President Donald Trump participated in the controversial “Tomahawk chop” at Game 4 of the World Series in Atlanta on Saturday night.
The chop, a stadium-wide chant and longtime tradition at Braves games, has been under renewed scrutiny as part of a national discussion about racism and racial imagery in professional sports.
Several advocacy groups and observers have accused the chant of mocking Native American groups and decried it as racist. But many Braves fans, including Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, have dismissed the criticism, and the stadium has led the fans in doing the chant in both Games 3 and 4 of the series.
Trump has frequently sought to capitalize politically on such controversies as part of an effort to galvanize the White voters who make up much of his political base.
Accompanying the former president and first lady Melania Trump is former NFL star Herschel Walker, who is running for a US Senate seat in Georgia. The former president’s support of Walker, which came initially over reservations from much of the GOP establishment, has given the former running back a boost ahead of next year’s primary. Republicans are hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in the general election.
In a statement earlier Saturday, the former president said he was “looking forward to being at the World Series in Atlanta,” adding that he and Melania were “looking forward to a wonderful evening watching two great teams!”
He thanked MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and New York Yankees’ president Randy Levine for the invite.
Atlanta Braves CEO Terry McGuirk told USA Today on Wednesday that Trump will not be sitting with team or MLB officials and that the Braves will give Trump his own suite.
“He called MLB and wanted to come to the game,” McGuirk told the paper. “We were very surprised. Of course, we said yes.”
CNN previously reported Wednesday that Trump was planning on attending Game 4, according to a person close to Trump who told CNN.
The Braves won 2-0 in Game 3 on Friday, putting them at a 2-1 advantage over the Astros in the best-of-seven series.
The last baseball game Trump attended was in 2019 at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, when the Nationals were hosting the Astros in Game 5. The crowd booed and broke into chants of “lock him up” when Trump was shown on the park’s video screen during a salute to veterans.
His 2020 presidential campaign also made a seven-figure ad buy during the final game of the 2019 World Series.
Trump attended several sporting events during his time as president and received much warmer receptions from the crowds at NASCAR’s Daytona 500, college football games in deep red states of Alabama and Louisiana, and when he did the coin toss at the 119th annual Army-Navy game.
Since leaving office, Trump attended a UFC fight card in July and provided commentary on a boxing match on September 11.
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CNN’s Karl de Vries, Mike Warren and Jill Martin contributed to this report.