Baltimore Orioles star slugger Adam Jones divulged after yesterday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park that he was on the receiving end of racial taunts from fans in the stands. The Red Sox swiftly made a public apology and are reportedly considering issuing lifetime bans for fans who are caught perpetrating such behavior in the future, but reaction needs to be stronger and more widespread.
During his first at-bat in the next game, Jones received a strongly positive response from the Boston crowd. While it makes for a good video clip it cannot be viewed as a resolution to such a serious and disgusting situation. The city of Boston has a lengthy history of racism, which has been often matched by the Red Sox. The team was the last in the major leagues to integrate, finally bringing infielder Pumpsie Green to the big league roster in 1959, a full 12 years after pioneer Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The franchise is undoubtedly in a better place with race relations than they have been in the past but the recent Jones incident shows that the work is far from done.
Professional players expect to be booed. They might even expect to be called names. That’s not my taste but that’s an entirely different thing compared to bringing racism into the equation. This was no isolated incident, as Boston has long had a reputation for such things happening in the stands. New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia said that black players expect such behavior when they play at Fenway.
Just because many, or even the majority of, fans don’t participate in such behavior, their silence is the strongest form of complicity. This goes double for Red Sox staff. At any given time during a home game, there are hundreds of vendors, ushers and security staff wandering through the crowds to maintain order and happiness. There is no way that such displays truly go unnoticed. Please don’t act surprised that this came to national attention now.
True baseball fans appreciate rivalry and fair play. There is no room for racism or the tolerance of anyone at the games who are perpetuating such vitriol. Fans need to step up and say something when they observe this. Staff MUST step up and address these situations when they come up. The front office must lead the charge in setting expectations and following through with training and consequences as needed.
Once lagging behind all other major league teams in the areas of social justice and equality, this is a unique opportunity for the Red Sox and their fans to jump to the forefront of this important issue. Only time will tell if they seize the day. As black Boston star Mookie Betts tweeted after the Jones story broke, “Fact: I'm Black too Literally stand up for @SimplyAJ10 tonight and say no to racism. We as @RedSox and @MLB fans are better than this.”
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