In the middle of the fourth inning of the Red Sox-Athletics game on Wednesday night, a sign was unfurled from the front row of Section 6 of Fenway Park’s Monster Seats.
“Racism is as American as baseball,” it read.
The sign remained visible for approximately two minutes before security personnel removed both the sign and four people — two men and two women, all roughly between the ages of 25 and 30 – from Fenway Park.
According to a statement issued by the team, four people were removed from Fenway for violating “the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark.”
No arrests occurred in relationship to the incident.
“Saw it was draped over the [Green] Monster, obviously,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “From the dugout, you see someone expressing their opinion. It looked like it was withdrawn relatively quick.”
“There’s no place for that,” Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts said. “That’s for another day, though.”
Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said the group behind the banner told Fenway security guards they “felt connected to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“Clearly they wanted to make a statement,” Kennedy said during a phone interview Wednesday night.
Messages with Black Lives Matter Boston and Black Lives Matter Cambridge were not immediately returned.
According to David Ryan of Boston, he and his friends were approached after the top half of the fourth inning by two men and a woman with what seemed like a simple request for a between-innings glimpse of the field.
“They came in and said, ‘Can we sit here for a minute?’ ” recounted Ryan.
Unbeknownst to Ryan and the fellow members of his party, Joe Roberts and David Rankin, the people weren’t merely interested in getting a better view of the field. Instead, once in the front-row seats, they unfurled a large black banner with white lettering delivering the message from the top of the Wall.
From their position behind the sign, the front-row patrons couldn’t read it. Nonetheless, as soon as they heard a chorus of boos from around the ballpark and saw reactions from field personnel, including third base umpire Joe West and Athletics players who were crossing the field, Ryan and his friends were distressed.
“They hung it out there and all the boos came in. We said, ‘That can’t be good,’ ” said Ryan. “We’re vets. We don’t want no [bull] out there. So I asked [one of the women in the group] at least three times clearly, ‘What does the sign say?’ She wouldn’t even turn her head to look at me. I said, ‘That’s cowardly. You won’t even tell me what it says.’ ”
While Ryan and his friends had not been able to read the sign while it hung in the ballpark, once they learned of the message that had been displayed, they became incensed.
“If we had known earlier [what the sign said], it would have come up a lot earlier. We would not have tolerated what they said if we’d known before security came,” said Ryan. “What they’re trying to say is America is racist. That’s what they’re trying to tell us — we’re racist. We’re not. Plain and simple. Sure, there are racist people here, but Boston being flagged with this racist tag . . . we don’t need that.”
The sign became the latest incident in a year that has seen Fenway Park thrust into the middle of an ongoing national dialogue about race relations. In May, Adam Jones revealed he’d been subjected to racist taunts while playing center field for the Orioles. This summer, Red Sox principal owner (and Globe owner) John Henry declared his intention to petition the City of Boston to rename Yawkey Way in an effort to have the team separate itself from its discriminatory past.
It was in that context that Ryan expressed frustration about the way that incidents such as the sign displayed on Wednesday might be shaping perception about the Red Sox’ home ballpark and his city.
“I’m just tired of hearing the racism tag over Fenway Park and Boston in general,” said Ryan.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh spokeswoman Nicole Caravella said the mayor’s office was gathering more information about the incident.
Peter Abraham and Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report.