At the in­ter­sec­tion of race and base­ball

This fight should be by ev­ery­one, not just Adam Jones

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DAVE SHEININ

You are un­likely to find any African Amer­i­can ma­jor-lea­guers who would be sur­prised by what Bal­ti­more Ori­oles cen­tre­fielder Adam Jones said he en­dured Mon­day night at Fenway Park in Bos­ton — a stream of ver­bal abuse and racist taunts that in­cluded mul­ti­ple n-words, and a bag of peanuts hurled at him from the stands. “It’s un­for­tu­nate that peo­ple need to re­sort to those types of ep­i­thets to de­grade an­other hu­man be­ing,” Jones told re­porters after the game. “I’m try­ing to make a liv­ing for my­self and my fam­ily.” With lit­tle other re­course, Jones sim­ply shrugged it off: “Let peo­ple be who they are,” he said. “Let them show their true colours.” Un­for­tu­nately, the sort of treat­ment Jones ex­pe­ri­enced — and not for the first time, he said — has been a fact of life for gen­er­a­tions of black big-lea­guers at Fenway, where the in­ter­sec­tion of race and base­ball has “a his­tory that is mad­den­ingly and im­por­tantly present,” ac­cord­ing to author Howard Bryant (a for­mer Wash­ing­ton Post sports­writer) in his book, “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Base­ball in Bos­ton.” “As a black player, the Red Sox brought out that lit­tle some­thing in all of us,” long­time New York Yan­kees sec­ond base­man Wil­lie Ran­dolph told Bryant. “You want to win ev­ery game, of course, but be­lieve me, ev­ery black player in that Yan­kee club­house wanted to beat Bos­ton even more.” And it isn’t just vis­it­ing play­ers who have had to deal with the abuse of racist fans at Fenway. Carl Craw­ford and David Price are among the Red Sox play­ers who have re­ported racist taunt­ing from their own fans. “It got pretty rough,” Price told the Bos­ton Globe about the abuse he re­ceived in 2016, his first sea­son with the Red Sox. “... I got it all. There’s noth­ing you can say to me that I haven’t heard be­fore. Your ig­no­rance is not go­ing to af­fect what I’m try­ing to do. But I feel sad it’s still out there.” That this type of be­hav­iour still hap­pens, and that play­ers such as Jones and Price have to tol­er­ate it with such fa­mil­iar res­ig­na­tion, is a huge prob­lem for Ma­jor League Base­ball, which has spent mas­sive amounts of money and ef­fort to bring African Amer­i­cans back to the sport, both on the play­ing field — where just 62 black play­ers were listed on Open­ing Day ros­ters — and in the stands. Ob­vi­ously, not ev­ery Red Sox fan at Fenway Park on Mon­day night was a racist, and it is pos­si­ble the pent-up an­i­mos­ity be­tween the Red Sox and Ori­oles over last week’s in­ci­dents at Cam­den Yards — when Ori­oles su­per­star Manny Machado took out Red Sox sec­ond base­man Dustin Pe­droia with a hard slide, and Red Sox re­liever Matt Barnes re­tal­i­ated two days later by throw­ing a pitch near Machado’s head — may have con­trib­uted to the tense at­mos­phere. But those are no ex­cuses for the pro­longed treat­ment that Jones was forced to en­dure. Red Sox of­fi­cials told USA To­day that the fan who threw the bag of peanuts at Jones was lo­cated and es­corted from the sta­dium, and that as many as 30 fans were ejected in to­tal, for var­i­ous rea­sons. You’d like to think one use of a racist taunt, es­pe­cially the n-word, would be enough to get some­one ejected from a ball­park. You’d like to think the ush­ers in that sec­tion would re­act swiftly, and that the other fans would self-po­lice the sit­u­a­tion and turn in the of­fender. You’d like to think prom­i­nent Red Sox play­ers would speak out against that type of be­hav­iour. “The Red Sox have zero tol­er­ance for such in­ex­cus­able be­hav­iour, and our en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion and our fans are sick­ened by the con­duct of an ig­no­rant few,” Red Sox Pres­i­dent Sam Kennedy said in a state­ment on Tues­day morn­ing in which the team apol­o­gized to Jones. “Such con­duct should be re­ported im­me­di­ately to Red Sox se­cu­rity, and any spec­ta­tor be­hav­ing in this man­ner for­feits his/her right to re­main in the ball­park, and may be sub­ject to fur­ther ac­tion. Our re­view of [Mon­day] night’s events is on­go­ing.” In the Bos­ton Globe story de­tail­ing Price’s treat­ment, the vet­eran lefty sin­gled out his bullpen catcher, the Fenway Park guards and a po­lice­man as­signed to the Red Sox’s bullpen as stand­ing up for him against the taunt­ing. But clearly, some­thing more needs to change. This fight shouldn’t be Jones’, or Price’s, to en­dure alone. It needs to be ev­ery­body’s fight, from the de­cent fans who fill Fenway each night, to the se­cu­rity per­son­nel whose vig­i­lance is re­quired, and to play­ers from both sides. And es­pe­cially to of­fi­cials from the Red Sox and Ma­jor League Base­ball, who need to make it clear — with some­thing more than words — that the type of be­hav­iour Jones re­ceived on Mon­day night can never be tol­er­ated.

JOE ROBBINS, GETTY IM­AGES

Bal­ti­more’s Adam Jones was the sub­ject of racial taunts and abuse at the hands of Bos­ton Red Sox fans Mon­day at Fenway Park.

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