Last night, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he was taunted by Red Sox fans at Fenway Park with racist slurs and one fan even threw peanuts at him. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball both issued public apologies to Jones and the Orioles.
In the aftermath, Boston fans have become very defensive about the incident, saying that last night’s boorish fans represent a very tiny fraction of the city’s fan base. Others pointed to other cities’ fans who have acted similarly, as if to deflect responsibility.
Back in January, Red Sox starter David Price said he was on the receiving end of racist slurs from Boston fans as well. Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. said he received racial taunts in 2014 when he was struggling. Barry Bonds said in 2004 that he would never play for the Red Sox because Boston is “too racist for me.” Vernon Wells said that, as a player, he was warned about only two stadiums where racist comments were common, and Fenway was one.
Add Yankees starter CC Sabathia to the list. The lefty said, “I’ve never been called the N-word” anywhere but Boston, Newsday’s Erik Boland reports. Sabathia continued, “We know. There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.” Sabathia said he hasn’t heard racist taunts from Boston fans since he’s been with the Yankees, though, because of increased security in the bullpen.
Yes, racism is everywhere in America, not just Boston. But the combination of Boston being one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country and a very strong city-wide passion for sports leads to more incidents like Monday night’s. Rather than deflect responsibility, Boston fans should hold each other accountable for behavior. Jones last night said that there were “59 or 60” fans ejected from the ballpark. How many others did nothing but watch as these boors acted out? How many others silently cheered them on? The correct response, when players like Jones and Sabathia say that Boston fans are racist, is to acknowledge the problem and vow to make it better. Discrediting the lived experiences of people of color is how white people avoid having to deal with their own complicity in a racist system.