May 3, 2017
The racial taunts— and objects, including a bag of peanuts— that Orioles outfielder Adams Jones said were hurled at him on Monday night at Fenway Park have brought legitimate scrutiny to how the Boston Red Sox police and protect their fans and players from both teams.
This will go down as the “Adam Jones incident,” but the talented African-American athlete is just one victim here. How about the young fans, especially kids of color, who come to the ballpark?
And it’s not just Fenway— as the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker noted in his column on Wednesday. Former NFL player Gosder Cherilus—the pride of Boston College and Somerville and a proud Haitian-American— was horrified when he and his Indianapolis Colts teammates were berated by “fans” dropping the “N-word” at Gillette Stadium, according to Walker.
The Red Sox moved quickly on Tuesday to stanch the bleeding from Monday’s incidents, which went national— yet another strike against the city of Boston in the arena of race relations. Fenway spectators, urged on by Sox star Mookie Betts, gave Jones a standing ovation in the first inning. That’s nice, and it makes us feel better for a minute.
But until Boston’s sports franchises and ownerships get serious about putting tough protocols in place, it’s just a feel-good gesture.
Within hours, on the Red Sox branded flagship station— WEEI— the hosts were busy perpetuating the twisted idea that Adams Jones is making the whole thing up! This is same station that employs Gerry Callahan, who infamously yukked it up as he and his sidekick compared our neighborhood kids to escaped primates from the zoo. In 2003.
Is there any wonder why Boston can’t shake its racist reputation?
The owners and management of the Sox should use every tool in their box to stamp out the kind of bigotry that’s pervasive on the airwaves of their branded station. Let’s hope they take this opportunity to stop turning a deaf ear to the drumbeat of haters on that radio station.
Inside Fenway, Major League Baseball and the Red Sox— in concert with Boston Police, who provide security details at Fenway— need clear rules of engagement when this happens again. Ejecting boozed-up racists isn’t enough; they need to be identified, arrested when warranted, and banished from the park for life. Players, staff, and fans should be empowered to stop the game to deal with racist hecklers. No one — either on the field or in the stands— should have to put up with it.
Editor's Note: On Wednesday, after this was published, news broke of a second incident at the ballpark— this one on Tuesday targeting a family in the stands. The alleged perpetrator who used a racial slur has been banned for life from the park, according to the Boston Globe.