In the midst of a furious, heated series between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, the two American League East teams threw scorching fastballs at and around each other’s star players.
“I felt it was different than the normal, ‘I hit your guy, you hit my guy.’ As a matter of fact, it had persisted so long, it was hard to trace back who had hit who, when and whose turn it was,” commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN.com last week, and he wasn’t wrong.
During the four-game weekday series at Fenway Park, warnings, ejections, and suspensions were forced amongst the players, who showed little to no respect for the dignity of the game.
Red Sox ace Chris Sale was ejected from a game for throwing behind and at the knees of former MVP finalist Manny Machado of Baltimore. In addition, Boston reliever Matt Barnes will see four games of disciplinary suspension due to a fastball aimed at Machado’s head on Thursday.
Orioles righty Kevin Gausman was sent to the dressing room early, after just two innings, for nailing Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts on Wednesday, which followed the plunking of outfielder Mookie Betts by Baltimore pitcher Dylan Bundy just two days prior.
However, lost in all of this nonsensical, retaliatory play, are the feelings of often outspoken Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.
Jones, a five-time All-Star and four-time American League Gold Glove recipient, is about as talented a center fielder not named Mike Trout as there is. This about Jones, who has not failed to reach 25 home runs in a season since 2010, we already knew.
The San Diego native is highly active in the support and activism of equality in the predominantly Caucasian and Hispanic world of Major League Baseball. Jones, an African American, has sported “Black Lives Matter” shirts in pregame batting practices and is also involved in the league’s RBI Program, which seeks to get more inner-city children playing the sport.
The issue is that, well, the city of Boston has a rich history of being unapologetically and undeniably racist in terms of sports. Jones, a past nominee of MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for the player “who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field,” has reportedly received a plethora of derogatory, racist remarks from the outfield seats at Fenway Park.
To step back a bit, the city of Boston has been through this before. In an autobiography from basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, the 7’1″ African American man described Boston as a “flea market for racism.” And not just any racists, Russell describes, but “brick-throwing, send-‘em-back-to-Africa racists.”
Also, in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who too is a black man in a mainly-white league, scored a game-winning overtime goal in a 2013 playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Subban received various racist tweets and attacks on Twitter, and later at the TD Garden when fans mocked the Norris Trophy winner for his skin color.
Jones, as well, has long been the victim of racist acts. In August of 2013, the former Seattle Mariners draft pick was nearly hit with a banana at AT&T Park in San Francisco during an interleague matchup against the Giants.
Which brings me to the point of this article. The staff at Fenway Park, who have now stepped their game up and enforced suspensions and bans, have handed down a lifetime ban to a fan who was reported to have repeatedly used the N-word.
On Tuesday night, a local teacher of an urban Massachusetts school caught and questioned the man in question, who was described to be sitting in the same section of Fenway. Calvin Hennick took to Twitter and Facebook to better chronicle the encounter.
As shown, the man used the N-word several times, never directed at Jones, but equally if not more offensive to those involved. Had Jones, who was backed by Betts on Twitter, not come forward and encouraged the Fenway staff to act upon this behavior, the racist man would still likely be allowed inside of the ballpark.
Thankfully, Jones, who is a better ambassador to the game of baseball and to race relations in the United States of America than many people realize, was able to bring this to the forefront. The Red Sox and Fenway Park will now be serving up these bans permanently.
Which, to me and many others, should be common protocol at every sports venue in North America. Jackie Robinson didn’t break the color barrier on April 15, 1947, for nothing.
Racism can not be accepted at ballparks, football stadiums, hockey and basketball arenas, or anywhere for that matter. If the sanctioning body of baseball as a whole has the ability to make their players, regardless of race, more comfortable in any way, then it’s a no-brainer.
Only seven percent of players on Opening Day rosters, 62 in total, were African American, a number that has dwindled for years compared to the 1960s and 1970s. Major League Baseball can’t tolerate this racist behavior from a business side, not only the side that treats its players and managers fairly. The game will simply get watered down and more hostile as the years go on.
Hopefully the other major sports organizations take notice of the work Jones, much like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has done and take action to make racism what it should be: an afterthought that shouldn’t ever have the platform to spew hatred and discontent down to those who proudly represent marginalized audiences.
You do you, Adam Jones. We should all be thankful and come together around this beautiful game. Thank you.