Recently, former major league outfielder Torii Hunter said that he was the target of racial epithets from Red Sox fans at Fenway Park. The Red Sox validated Hunter’s claim, calling his experience “real.” The club said there were seven reported incidents involving fans using racial slurs just last year alone.
It is not the first time in recent memory that a Black major leaguer was on the receiving end of bigoted comments. In the early part of the 2017 season, then-Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said Red Sox fans made racist remarks at him and one fan even threw a bag of peanuts at him. The Red Sox also apologized for that incident. Former big league starter CC Sabathia also said he was called the N-word by Red Sox fans.
Despite the surfeit of reported incidents, Red Sox fans aren’t the only fan base to act this way. Make no mistake, every team’s fan base has uncouth, racist members but we just don’t hear about them. Racism is a nationwide, systemic problem.
Indians outfielder Delino DeShields told ESPN’s Joon Lee that in 2015, his rookie season with the Rangers, Yankees fans were taunting him while he stood in left field. DeShields said, “They were wearing me out, talking about my sister, how I would never be as good as my dad, normal stuff.” The fans escalated into calling him the N-word. “Even if you do say something, how many people are going to do something about it? That’s just a situation where you feel alone.”
The Yankees were the last team in Major League Baseball to make a statement about the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing nationwide protests against systemic racism, which includes police brutality. Hopefully, the Yankees’ response to DeShields’ comments won’t be as delayed and will be made in the same validating spirit as the Red Sox response to Hunter.