The Adam Jones in­ci­dent at Fen­way Park is not only a prob­lem for base­ball.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - KEVIN B. BLACKISTONE sports@wash­ Kevin B. Blackistone, ESPN pan­elist and vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Philip Mer­rill Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, writes sports com­men­tary for The Post.

The son of the first black player for the Scot­tish soc­cer club Celtic, whose writ­ing ca­reer was forged as a one-time English pro­fes­sor at Fed­eral City Col­lege (now the Univer­sity of the District of Columbia), wrote in his 1975 rap, “We Beg Your Par­don,” that “Amer­ica leads the world in shocks.”

“Un­for­tu­nately,” the late spo­ken-word sage and mu­si­cian Gil Scott-Heron con­tin­ued, “Amer­ica does not lead the world in de­ci­pher­ing the cause of shock.”

Scott-Heron’s words, recorded at old D&B Sound in Sil­ver Spring, came to mind in the af­ter­math of the Fen­way Park in­ci­dent Mon­day that en­veloped Bal­ti­more Ori­oles out­fielder Adam Jones. Thirty-some peo­ple in the stands of the Red Sox home ball­park were ejected after some spat racial in­vec­tive, and hurled a bag of peanuts, in Jones’s di­rec­tion.

Most of the Red Sox fans are white. Jones is black.

“Cow­ards,’’ Jones fired back af­ter­ward. “It’s pa­thetic. I was called the n-word a hand­ful of times tonight.” Amer­ica re­sponded. In shock. The Bos­ton Her­ald head­lined a story: “Adam Jones in­ci­dent at Fen­way opens im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion in base­ball and Bos­ton.” A colum­nist at USA To­day wrote: “Jones re­minded us Mon­day, and re­it­er­ated Tues­day, racism is alive and well in the good ol’ USA.”

I can hear Scott-Heron chortling in his bari­tone.

For what took place at Fen­way Park on Mon­day wasn’t a base­ball prob­lem. It wasn’t en­demic to Bos­ton, where I sur­vived a cou­ple years as an ac­ci­den­tal racial vi­o­lence re­porter at the Bos­ton Globe, and as a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Bos­ton Univer­sity. And it cer­tainly wasn’t an event we needed to re­call that there are racists lurk­ing among us.

What we wit­nessed in Bos­ton was the re­frain that sport re­flects so­ci­ety — or cer­tainly the ugly tenor of Don­ald Trump’s suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that em­bold­ened big­ots ev­ery­where — come to life.

There was no rea­son to be stunned that such ug­li­ness would make it­self vis­i­ble at one of our sport­ing con­tests. At­ten­dees at Euro­pean soc­cer matches don’t have a mo­nop­oly on pub­lic ex­pres­sions of racism. Last Sunday in Italy, a Ghana­ian player walked off the field after a ref­eree re­fused to re­spond to a cas­cade of racial ep­i­thets from the stands.

As my friend Richard Lapchick, who di­rects the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida’s In­sti­tute for Di­ver­sity and Ethics and Sport, wrote in Jan­uary at “Many think of sports as be­ing a sanc­tu­ary which racism can­not pen­e­trate, but they of­ten re­flect what is go­ing on in so­ci­ety. There seems to be a broad agree­ment that acts of racism in the United States are in­creas­ing at an alarm­ing rate. The same was true in sport in 2016, where such acts [nearly] tripled from 11 in 2015 to 31 in 2016, ac­cord­ing to re­search and anal­y­sis from [the in­sti­tute].”

Part of the rea­son peo­ple ex­pressed dis­be­lief that Amer­i­can sports fans would shower a player like Jones with so much vit­riol is that those of us in the media have cre­ated a mythol­ogy about our sports as a van­guard for so­cial change and jus­tice, some sort of spear­head for pro­gres­sivism on is­sues that really mat­ter. Truth is, sport has been more likely to imi­tate so­ci­etal be­hav­ior than chal­lenge it. Think about it: That much-told Jackie Robin­son story wouldn’t have hap­pened had base­ball been on the right side of his­tory in the first place. In­stead, base­ball was the club­house leader in seg­re­gated pro sports in this coun­try. Other sports — horse rac­ing, boxing, bas­ket­ball and foot­ball — fol­lowed base­ball’s lead.

Jones was lauded in some cir­cles near the end of last base­ball sea­son for sound­ing as if he was speak­ing truth to power in ex­plain­ing why there wouldn’t be any base­ball play­ers demon­strat­ing in sol­i­dar­ity with NFL quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick’s protest against the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings of black men.

“We al­ready have two strikes against us . . . so you might as well not kick your­self out of the game,” Jones said. “In foot­ball, you can’t kick them [black play­ers] out. You need those play­ers. In base­ball, they don’t need us . . . . Base­ball is a white man’s sport.” That is a nar­row view­point. There are more black men play­ing Ma­jor League Base­ball now than ever be­fore. It’s just that most of them are part of the African di­as­pora that was stolen away to the first stop on the trans-At­lantic slave trade, the is­land of His­pan­iola, rather than all the way to North Amer­ica. Half of His­pan­iola be­came the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic; 93 ma­jor lea­guers at the start of the sea­son were born in that coun­try. An­other nine pre­dom­i­nantly or heav­ily black Caribbean and South and Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries put 125 play­ers on Open­ing Day ros­ters. Jones was one of 62 black play­ers from the United States at this sea­son’s first pitch.

But mi­nor­ity sta­tus shouldn’t trans­late into self-re­straint. Jones’s fel­low black ballplay­ers like New York Yan­kees pitcher CC Sa­bathia, who echoed others when he re­vealed be­ing the tar­get of big­oted slings and ar­rows at Fen­way, too, shouldn’t have bit­ten their tongues un­til now. Hear some­thing, say some­thing. See some­thing, point it out. Don’t turn a blind eye to racism.

Jones and others could have shamed the Red Sox long ago to re­spond as they did in the af­ter­math of Mon­day’s in­ci­dent by ban­ning big­ots from Fen­way and en­cour­aged ev­ery sports league to adopt the same penalty — as well they should, im­me­di­ately.


The Ori­oles’ Adam Jones tips his hel­met after re­ceiv­ing an ova­tion at Fen­way Park on Tues­day, a night after he en­dured racial slurs.

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