How Black Athletes Could Protest Racial Abuse at Fenway Park

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s current challenge is to ensure that baseball is played in 2020. Once he meets that challenge, he will face another: getting the racists out of Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox from Boston. If he doesn’t, he may be confronted with protests from players on the field, a phenomenon MLB has rarely had to contend with.

Players can kneel or raise their fists during the national anthem as NFL players have, or they can leave the field mid-game as European soccer players have. What they won’t do is put up with hateful racist teasing as they try to focus on playing the game they love. Those days are over.

Before Major League pitcher CC Sabathia retired in 2019, he publicly broadcast what Major League Baseball black baseball players have known for years: They are racially abused at Fenway.

“We all know that,” said Sabathia. “When you go to Boston, wait for it.”

Certainly, only a small minority of Red Sox fans traffic in so much filth, but those few have made an impression. No other stadium in the United States has such a reputation, and if the activism of the athletes reaches the Major Leagues, it will undoubtedly take root at Fenway Park.

Torii Hunter, who played in the majors for 19 years with the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Los Angeles Angels until his retirement in 2015, recently revealed that adults and adults had repeatedly called him the n-word on Fenway. throughout his career. children alike. Adam Jones, who finished last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and now plays in Japan, quickly turned to Twitter to support Hunter. Jones was also serenaded with the n-word on Fenway and then suffered further indignity from former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling publicly calling him a liar.

(Paul Rosales / Yahoo Sports)

Jackie Bradley Jr., currently with the Red Sox, followed Hunter and Jones’ tweets, tweeting: “I’ve definitely appreciated the leadership and advice of all of you along the way,” indicating that perhaps he, even as a Red Player. from the Sox, he experiences racist insults at Fenway. David Price, the former Red Sox pitcher and current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, certainly experienced such insults. He admitted so much when he played there.

To minimize their time at Fenway Park, many MLB players flatly refuse to play for the Red Sox. Hunter is Exhibit A. He says he inserted a “no trade to Boston” clause in each of his major league contracts. Enduring racial abuse at Fenway several times a year was enough for him.

But what happens when the big black leagues decide that a few times a year is too many? What happens when they decide they just can’t take it?

Once baseball resumes and the Red Sox faithful are allowed to return to Fenway, we will surely find out. A wave of activism by black athletes is mounting as the nation boils with protests against police brutality and systemic discrimination. Black baseball players, like other black athletes and black people in general, are fed up. And while they may have bitten their tongues at Fenway in the past, they probably won’t in the future.

Take a look at what some of these players have said and written in the past few weeks.

  • Atlanta Braves pitcher Touki Toussaint: “I’m MAD. I’m sad. I’m tired. … I am black…. I will not remain silent knowing my platform.

  • Cleveland Indians outfielder Delino DeShields Jr .: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called [n-word] while trying to do something you love to do. “

  • New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman: “BLACK LIFE MATTERS. . . Stay awake!

  • Philadelphia Phillies star Andrew McCutchen: “Some evils we cannot control, but for which we can resist and know that good overcomes evil.”

  • Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton: “African Americans have been killed from left to right for nothing more than the color of our skin. That is reality and has been ignored for far too long. DEMAND PROGRESS. “

Former Orioles star Adam Jones spoke about racial slurs directed at him at Fenway Park in 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Committed to defeating racism and increasingly emboldened to fight it publicly, these athletes will not remain silent on the baseball field and endure racial slurs. And now they have something that was not clear they had a few weeks ago: white teammates who will publicly oppose racism along with them and who will be valuable allies in the majority white league. A sample of some of his recent comments:

Never in the history of the big leagues have players, both white and black, spoken out so aggressively against racism. Activism has taken over and there is no going back. The next time a black player is called the n-word in Fenway, get ready for an answer. Maybe it takes the form of a silent pre-game protest or a grim post-game press conference.

Or perhaps it will take a form not previously seen in this country, a form of protest that not even the NFL has faced. Black soccer players in Europe have for years been facing racial abuse from fans in stadiums across the continent and have begun to take the entirely reasonable step of refusing to play in such conditions.

Earlier this year, for example, Moussa Marega, a striker for FC Porto in Portugal, was serenaded with monkey noises while playing. After scoring what would be the winning goal in a 2-1 game, he had heard enough and left the playing surface. The game continued, but he refused to be a part of it. Good for him. Last year, during England’s prestigious FA Cup tournament, fans racially attacked the Haringey Borough FC goalkeeper, and the entire team left the field, ending the game. Good for them.

And it’s good for any MLB player who upon hearing the n word at Fenway Park drops his glove or bat where he’s standing and just walks off the field, perhaps with all of his teammates following him.

Black players have been racially abused at Fenway Park for far too long. Manfred and MLB have two options. Find a way to work with the Red Sox to institute fierce and unprecedented disincentives for racial abuse in Fenway, or to become the new epicenter of black athlete protests in the United States.