NAACP leader calls racial harassment of Orioles outfielder ‘a shame on the city’
The racial epithets directed at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones Monday night at Fenway Park are a “shame on the city” that highlight the continuing need to improve the social environment in Boston, the leader of the Boston chapter of the NAACP said.
“I’m just really sorry that Mr. Jones experienced what appears to be the worst of Boston last night,’’ said Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “This is a shame on the city.’’
Sullivan noted that Jones’ experience comes shortly after Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che called Boston “the most racist city” he has been to. At Fenway, Sullivan said, those who insulted Jones were confident they could freely use hate language because of the attitudes of those around them.
“There is something about the climate here” in Boston, she said. “There is something about the climate that made people think it was okay. That made people think that, in a crowded stadium, they could shout out these words, and not only would they not be arrested — but the people around them would find it acceptable. And that speaks to something very deep.’’
Both Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Michelle Wu, president of the Boston City Council, separately denounced the words and actions of the people who harassed the star outfielder Monday.
“This is unacceptable and not who we are as a city,’’ Walsh said in a statement. “These words and actions have no place in Fenway, Boston, or anywhere. We are better than this.”
Jones told the Globe that he has been subjected to racial taunts during prior visits to Fenway Park, but his experience Monday was the worst.
“A disrespectful person threw a bag of peanuts at me and I got called the ‘N’ word a handful of times,” Jones told the Globe. “It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being.’’
Wu said in a telephone interview that not only was Jones insulted by the derogatory words, so, too, were all residents of the city and all who support the Boston Red Sox.
“No one should be subjected to racial slurs anywhere in our city,’’ Wu said. “It’s an insult to all of Boston and all Red Sox fans that these words were used in the name of our home team.’’
Wu said that she believes the city’s elected leaders are “deeply committed to inclusion, equality and we need that reality to be reflected in the perception of the city.’’ She added, however, that the “unfortunate reality is that we have a long way to go.’’
Red Sox President Sam Kennedy issued a statement Tuesday apologizing to Jones and the Orioles.
“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 in the statement. “No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, nor be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park.’’
Kennedy also wrote that “the Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few.’’
He urged fans at Fenway Park to notify Red Sox security when they see or hear offensive behavior so staff can eject them from the game and “may be subject to further action.’’
“Our review of last night’s events is ongoing,’’ Kennedy said.
Separately, Governor Charlie Baker used his Twitter account to denounce anyone who used racially offensive words against Jones.
“Fenway fans behavior at the #RedSox game last night was unacceptable & shameful,” Baker wrote. “This is not what Massachusetts & Boston are about.’’
In a telephone interview, the leader of the NAACP said she believes law enforcement should identify the individuals and bring criminal hate crime charges if they can. She also called for a lifetime ban on anyone who is identified as the source of a racial epithet not just at Fenway, but at all Major League Baseball parks.
“Mr. Jones was working at the time, so being exposed to that type of treatment while he was working, regardless of what his job is, that should be investigated,’’ she said. “Simple ejection is not enough. This is a significant thing and it’s not acceptable.’’
She added, “As a city, I do believe we have come a long way. But I like to quote Robert Frost - ‘We have miles to go before we sleep.’ We have to confront this issue head-on.”
Darnell L. Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he believes the Red Sox leadership will “swiftly deal with this kind of ignorance.”
Still, he added, the incident involving Jones creates a stain on the city’s reputation nationally.
“Nationally, people still think we are the Boston” of the 1970s, when the city was riven by discord after a federal judge ordered the desegregation of the city’s public schools through busing, he said.
“An incident of this nature, it only reinforces that negative perception. It doesn’t help us, it hurts us,” he said.
Boston City Councilor-at-large Ayanna Pressely called the incident “infuriating, offensive, and disgusting” and called for a more to be done found responsible than simply being ejected from the game.
“We need to send a strong message culturally,’’ she said.
Matt O’Malley, who represents District 6, said in a statement that the “hateful, racist, and incendiary rhetoric that was directed towards Adam Jones last night is unacceptable and does not represent Red Sox nation. No true fan would ever comport himself that way.’’