Last night Baltimore Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones was the target of racist taunts at Fenway Park. According to Jones, several fans were directing the “n-bomb” in his direction, and one fan even threw a bag of peanuts at him as he left the field. The mayor of Boston and the Red Sox organization have since apologized to Jones and the Orioles.
This story has been well-documented on various outlets all night, so I’m not going to re-hash it. However I will mention that this isn’t the first time something like this has occurred. Jones had a banana thrown at him in San Francisco in 2013 (an action which has obvious racial connotations), and apparently heard similar racial taunts in Toronto during the playoffs last season. He also witnessed a full ban of beer thrown at one of his teamates.
MLB really needs to get a handle on this type of thing. Jones was very careful to say that while he had heard these types of things in Boston previously, he didn’t feel it was “a Boston thing.” There are bad apples all over the place, and in every fan base. Unfortunately those are the ones that we notice. Jones also went onto say that various Boston players reached out to him to express support.
The color barrier in MLB was broken in 1947 – that much we know. That wasn’t as much about baseball as it was civil rights in general, and I would submit that it’s a moment which many view as getting beyond race being an issue. However what’s evident is that we haven’t reached that point.
The various civil unrest in communities across America, including Baltimore at this exact moment two years ago, tells us that race is still an issue. But nothing shows us of this more so than a player having to take that type of verbal abuse while competing. While many folks don’t necessarily want to hear that, it is in fact the truth.
And MLB has a responsibility to recognize this and find some way to protect it’s players. And it’s fans for that matter – if you went to a baseball game and heard words like that out of other fans, would it not dissuade you from going back? Jones himself said today that he’d like to see fines be handed out to fans/people who do these types of things (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
Fines. That’s not in my realm. Obviously, I’m worried about playing the game. That’s something, I think, that will be individually assessed. Certain ballparks, certain rules and regulations. I met with Mr. (John) Henry today. He said if things like this happen, they’re going to revoke whoever’s tickets they are. I know that tickets here are very sacred. They’re passed down through generations and it’s hard to get, so stripping people of their right to come to the ballpark, … that would suck because this is one of the greatest venues to watch a sporting event and people would miss out on it because of some pure stupidity.
Ironically, that might be a bit overly-draconian in a way. If someone just screamed a racist taunt, they do have that right to free speech. It may not be popular, but they do have that right. The league and stadium authority has the right (and in my view the duty) to eject that person and probably to ban them for life, but in order to levy a fine the law would have to get involved. And unless there’s proof of that taunt causing something more than hurt feelings, it’s legal.
Again, I don’t say that as a matter of thinking it’s okay to say things like that – under no circumstances do I believe that. I’m speaking on a matter of law in that instance – what’s unpopular or offensive, may well still be legal. But the idea of revoking people’s tickets is one that might well send shivers down the spines of fans in moxie-land. As Jones himself said, many of those folks have had tickets passed down throughout generations of families. Would you want to be the great-grandson, nephew, etc. who got the family’s tickets revoked (especially for THAT)?
What Jones also revealed in that quote was that he had been personally contacted by Mr. John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox. That in and of itself should restore some faith in Boston, along with the fact that the mayor made a statement of support for Jones. This type of thing goes beyond team loyalties; for the owner of the team to reach out like that to an opposing player speaks volumes.
At the end of the day, MLB needs to address this in some manner as I said. Not through comments and statements, but through action. Perhaps it should be a league-wide policy that if you get caught doing something like this you should be banned from the ballpark for life. And if you’re in the ballpark as a result of a season ticket plan, that should be revoked also.
Buy beyond whatever the league can or should do, this goes beyond baseball. WE THE PEOPLE need to collectively do better. ALL OF US.