Bob Nightengale, USA Today’s MLB writer, penned a piece Wednesday titled “MLB, club won’t budge on Atlanta baseball team’s nickname, but here’s why I won’t use it” that began by listing the “blatantly racist” caricatures and the “offensive” mascot that were previously removed and how headdresses, face paint and the famous “tomahawk chop” chant at games became “strongly discouraged.”
“In recent years, I have tried to avoid using Atlanta’s nickname in columns,” Nightengale wrote. “I find it offensive, and after talking and listening to Native American leaders, friends and associates, it only fortifies my belief.”
“Copy editors have occasionally changed it in my copy because until now this has been my private stance. 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 added.
Nightengale went on to clarify that he has “the utmost respect for the club and the class and dignity of Henry Aaron lives and breathes throughout the organization” but that “I just hate its nickname, believing it’s racist and offensive, and stunned at the hardened stance club leaders have taken.”
Nightengale’s column from Saturday originally had the headline, “Sweet revenge: Atlanta Braves knock off Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to World Series,” according to The Wayback Machine. That was since changed to read, “Sweet revenge: Atlanta knocks off Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to World Series.”
Every reference to the “Braves” was removed from the piece.
The stealth-editing similarly occurred with an Oct. 18 piece, originally titled, “Mighty Dodgers are reeling, frustrated after two walk-off NLCS wins for the Braves,” now titled “Mighty Dodgers are reeling, frustrated after two walk-off NLCS wins for Atlanta.” All uses of the word “Braves” in the piece were also scrubbed.
Both articles were timestamped as “updated” on Oct. 25, two days before Nightengale’s piece slamming the Braves team name was published. No editor’s note was initially added acknowledging the changes, though one of them included an unrelated correction.
A spokesperson for Gannett, USA Today’s parent company, referred to the stealth-edits as an “oversight,” telling Fox News the stories have been “corrected” with an editor’s note, which reads, “A previous version of this column was edited to remove the team name after it had been originally published. Due to an editing change, the team name was inserted without the author’s knowledge.”
This isn’t the first time USA Today was caught stealth-editing.
In April, the newspaper faced intense backlash for allowing prominent Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams to make changes to a March op-ed that justified calls for an Atlanta boycott after the MLB moved its All-Star Game from the city amid the uproar of Georgia’s GOP-backed election reform bill.
A Gannett spokesperson told Fox News at the time, “We regret the oversight in updating the Stacey Abrams column. As soon as we recognized there was no editor’s note, we added it to the page to reflect her changes. We have reviewed our procedures to ensure this does not occur again.”