The Boston Red Sox response to Charlottesville has raised serious questions in this newsroom.
After speaking with a Red Sox spokesperson about a story we wanted to run on Yawkey Way, our newsroom sent the following email to the Red Sox on May 12th, an email we have complete confidence they received, mostly because they were expecting it.
My name is Christian James.
I was directed to your attention by a media relations representative.
We are going to be running a story on Tom Yawkey, and by extension the street named after him outside of Fenway Park.
There is concern within the African American community about the street name, and the machinations of the man behind it.
We have several questions on this subject, including why the Redsox continue to keep his name in such a prominent position considering his well documented approach to African American baseball players.
We would love to send a writer, and a photographer to the park to cover this story, and perhaps a ball game.
We believe this story is very important, and after the statement the Redsox organization put out after the incident a couple weeks ago at the park, we believe coverage of this story is important for clarity, not just to the African American community.”
After speaking with our editor, the Red Sox spokesperson specifically asked that this message be formulated into an email.
So when the team failed to respond, when they refused to even comment on a very news worthy story, there was a bit of shock on our side of things.
The impetus for the story surrounded an incident at Fenway Park on May 1st , in which Baltimore Orioles Center fielder Adam Jones was the allegedly the subject of racial taunts at Fenway Park.
After Adam Jones complained that fans were shouting racial slurs at him, throwing peanuts in his direction, and engaging in other hateful behavior, the Red Sox put out the following statement to distance themselves from intolerance.
“The Red Sox want to publicly apologize to Adam Jones and the entire Orioles organization for what occurred at Fenway Park Monday night,” Kennedy said. “No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, nor be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park.”
After reading this statement of tolerance, we reached out to the Boston Red Sox to inquire about former Red Sox Owner Tom Yawkey, and the public association the organization maintains with his legacy.
Who was Tom Yawkey?
A wealthy bigot that oppressed negro ball players for decades, even when most of MLB baseball had begun the process of intergration, Yawkey stubbornly refused to allow black ball players on his team, even as the Red Sox were losing games.
Countless black ball players never saw the light of day in Major League Baseball because of Tom Yawkey, an entire generation of athletes was prevented from being entered into the history books.
Tom Yawkey’s name now adorns the very popular street that is adjacent to the Fenway Park.
The Red Sox had multiple black players in their farm system during the 1950s, with the team failing to promote them despite the successes other teams realized after integrating black players. During this period, the Red Sox went from perennial contender to failing to finish within ten games of first place for 17 years (1950–1966).
As owner of the Boston Red Sox, the team’s policy on integration ultimately was Yawkey’s responsibility.
In 1959, the Red Sox became the last major league team to field a black player, Pumpsie Green, twelve years after Jackie Robinson‘s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers and two-and-a-half years after Robinson’s retirement. Robinson would later call Yawkey “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball”.
On May 12th, The Red Sox refused to answer questions, or give us the time of day when pressed about why they continued to honor this evil man.
It was incredibly unprofessional and disappointing that the team refused to address a serious civil rights issue 10 days after championing the progressiveness of the organization.
In the months that followed, the Redsox never got back to us.
Earlier this week, in wake of the tragedy of Charlottesville, the Boston Redsox announced this.
“Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry said it is time to rename Yawkey Way, the road outside Fenway Park that is a nod to former team owner who resisted integrating his club more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
Henry told the Boston Herald in an email that he’s “haunted” by the street’s name and would be in favor of changing it to Big Papi Way as a tribute to former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Any change would have to be approved by Boston city officials”.
Tastie Fish applauds the Red Sox for finally addressing a street name that is offensive to millions of people, Tom Yawkey being worshiped in 2017 makes no sense whatsoever.
The Boston Red Sox did not make this move until after Charlottesville, they did move until it was the trendy, it was not a serious problem just 12 weeks ago.
John Henry says that the name “haunts him”, which is believable because Mr. Henry is a great man, but that does not excuse not making this priority decades ago.
We have numerous questions for the Boston Redsox.
1. Why now? Why is Yawkey Way all of a sudden an intolerable arrangement? We sent a media request on May 12th for a story we wanted to run on this very issue, why did the Red Sox refuse to respond? Even when we cited the social and historical implications of the story?
2. Why would the Redsox tell TF to please “formulate this inquiry into an email, and we will address it, because this is important” only to blow off the email, NOT address Yawkey way, and remain silent for months?
3. John Henry claims he does not have the power to change street names, but 40,000 people(With the Mayor’s blessing) just marched in Boston against intolerance, and bigotry, so how difficult would it really be?
The Redsox did the right thing in finally distancing the organization from Tom Yawkey, but the inaction of the front office to address the situation before there was a national backlash to bigotry discredits the morality of the move in many ways.
Being progressive is not a trend, tolerance is not a fad, it’s a belief system, either you are with it, or your not.
For the Boston Red Sox, progressiveness appears to be conditional on public interest, not right and wrong.
A reporter contacted the Red Sox months ago, identified himself as an African American reporter, asked the Red Sox to address a massive symbol of African American oppression.
The Redsox did nothing, not until it was the hip thing to do.
Tastie Fish will be seeking comment from the Boston Redsox, and will update this story when we have heard back from them.