Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget His Mistakes

Calls to tear down Confederate monuments are making headlines throughout the United States. Violence in Charlottesville has brought attention to our nation’s history that leave many divided. Personally, I think most of them should come down and be placed in museums. Racists erected them to intimidate African Americans, and they represent nothing but treason and oppression. Calls to rename other parks and streets that bare the names of ambiguous persons of history echo those same demands. One of those demands includes renaming Yawkey Way. While I think Confederate monuments should come down, I think they should keep Yawkey Way the way it is.

Yawkey Way was named after Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1933keep yawkey way to 1976. Many remember Yawkey as a racist. During his reign, the Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate when Pumpsie Green took the field in 1959. Before then, the Red Sox had chances to sign players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Sam Jethroe, all Rookies of the Year. Additionally, he employed Mike “Pinky” Higgins, a manager who made no effort to keep his distain for African Americans a secret. Higgins is the primary reason why the Red Sox didn’t integrate for years. Yawkey not only kept Higgins around, but he even promoted him through the years. Unlike owners like Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck, Yawkey chose to play along with the rest of the owners in baseball and drag their feet before integrating their teams. That will always be a part of his reputation and deservedly so.

Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget, and Repeat, The Past

Going back to my introduction, Confederate monuments need to come down because they represent a time in our nation’s history when traitors tried to tear this country apart. For many years after the war ended, its sympathizers tried to retain the honor of the south by erecting monuments, partly so they could continue terrorizing and intimidating African Americans who they’d oppressed for years. Many of these Confederate monuments were built specifically and deliberately to push back against integration and Civil Rights. That’s why they now need to come down. In fact, Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, discouraged monuments. He thought they “keep open the sores of war” (Boy was he right).

Was Yawkey Way given its name for the same reasons? Of course not. Yawkey Way was named to honor Tom Yawkey, not to intimidate African Americans from coming to Fenway Park.

Keep Yawkey Way To Hold Yawkey’s Legacy Responsible

Yawkey Way bares the name of an owner responsible for modernizing Fenway Park. He played an important role in the history of the Red Sox and in baseball. Many ballplayers, black and white, remember him as being a very generous and approachable man. Deep down, he probably didn’t harbor racist sentiments as intense as Higgins’. However, he’s still responsible for that racist legacy. He could have done what Rickey and Veeck did and integrate the Red Sox before any other team. But he didn’t.

So instead of letting Yawkey and the Red Sox off the hook, the team needs to keep Yawkey Way. Of course, the current ownership doesn’t hold the same views Yawkey did, but they chose to buy the team and its dark legacy comes with that. They don’t get to “erase” that. It would also enable people to forget about the terrible mistakes Tom Yawkey made. Instead of erasing that history, the Red Sox should use this opportunity not only to remember a dark past, but take efforts to ensure they don’t go down similar paths.

Keep Yawkey Way To Ensure We Don’t Forget

There is no easy solution here. People will remain angry no matter what’s done. But let’s keep things in perspective here. This publication, which also bears the Yawkey name, looks to a future that includes equality and opportunity for everyone. To rename the street would jeopardize those efforts to craft a better future. Personally, I write for Yawkey Way Report because I want to help create a future with more equal opportunities so that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. have a chance to thrive, whether it’s in baseball or in other aspects of life. Renaming Yawkey Way would indirectly disrupt those efforts because those involved would have to start from scratch to associate itself with a new title. That takes time, and frankly, I don’t see how that’s a better approach. That’s like tearing down an entire house just because the kitchen is unstable.

So instead of looking at Yawkey Way as a symbol of racism, look to it as a symbol of change. Tom Yawkey, while he could have done much more, tried to change his views for the better. Does that excuse his behavior? No. But renaming a street isn’t a zero sum solution and it never will be. We need to take the good with the bad. We can remember Tom Yawkey as an innovative owner while also holding his legacy responsible for its reprehensible actions. To change the name of Yawkey Way would be to erase and rewrite a history that, despite its darkness, is important to remember so we do not repeat it.

Yankee Fan Reacts To JBJ’s Catch With Bigotry

The Boston Red Sox played host to their arch-rival the New York Yankees this past weekend. The rivals split the four-game series 2-2 with the Red Sox still a few gamesYankee fan ahead of the Yankees. The series saw many highs and lows, including a blown save by Craig Kimbrel. The biggest highlight of the series though came during the fourth and final game Sunday night. In the top of the eighth, centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. robbed a home run from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. While both Red Sox and Yankee fans behaved well in general during the series, one Yankee fan took to Instagram to voice his reaction to Bradley Jr.’s amazing catch. He wasn’t exactly subtle in his opinion about Bradley Jr., and it was caught by a Red Sox fan for all on Instagram to see.

Following the game, a Red Sox fan and Instagram user posted a snapshot to his storyline. The snapshot detailed a conversation between two Instagramers, one a Red Sox fan and another a Yankee fan. The Yankee-themed Instagram account has 12,000 followers while Red Sox-themed account has about 2300 followers. While the message in its entirety wasn’t available to read, the Red Sox fan mentioned how Jackie Bradley Jr. robbed Aaron Judge of a home run. In response, the Yankee fan wrote “Lucky catch from that n–ger coon.” The Red Sox fan screenshot the conversation with the tagline, “reeeeeal classy…trash Red Sox fans and then call JBJ that…” and posted it as an Instagram story. I reached out to both users for comment but neither responded. You can see the actual snapshot here.

Many of you who are reading this might wonder why I’m taking issue with this message. Some of you might shrug it off. Others might argue that it’s not worth talking about. Some might even say it’s stupid. But here’s why I think this is an important story to discuss.

Not Everyone Is Like This Yankee Fan, But They Exist Everywhere

Last April, the Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones found himself on the receiving end of racial taunts at Fenway Park. While most Red Sox fans reacted with anger and disgust, others carried on as if it was nothing. Some even said Jones needs to get over himself. But it’s that very attitude that enables this kind of behavior to begin with. People complain and say things like “I’m tired of everyone being so sensitive!” Others will say that they’re tired of these kinds of stories, racism will exist no matter what, free speech, etc. But here’s something people forget about. That’s a two way street.

Now, people are entitled to their beliefs, but keep in mind that others are entitled to respond. If someone isn’t ready to defend themselves without using racial slurs, then maybe he or she should just keep to themselves. More importantly, maybe they shouldn’t share their thoughts on social media.

Hey Yankee Fan, What You Post On Social Media Stays There Forever

It’s sad and pathetic that baseball has to suffer these fools who think it’s okay to bring their racist sentiments to the ballpark, or post them on social media. It’s as if they don’t notice the number 42 that hangs in every MLB ballpark. Jackie Robinson is the main reason why baseball could integrate in the first place. The amount of taunting he endured in his career led to his early death at 53. He sacrificed himself so others like him could play the great game. But here we are, seventy years later, and not only do we still have to listen to people throw the “n” word around, but even worse, we have to listen to them complain when someone calls them out on their bigotry. Again, two way street here.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Of course, not every Yankee fan shares these bigoted views. All of the Yankee fans I know don’t care what color skin someone is as long as they can play ball. But regardless of how you feel about this topic, I think we can all agree that it’s totally not okay to use racial slurs to describe someone like Jackie Bradley Jr.

This isn’t about being politically correct. This isn’t about being sensitive. And it’s not even about trying to pick a petty fight. It’s about calling fans out on their racism, whether it’s at the ballpark or on social media. Of course, there’s some issues that we can hotly debate all day long, like whether to play “God Bless America” at ballgames. Those are heathy debates where both sides can make valid points. But how do you defend someone who wrote those comments about Jackie Bradley Jr.? You can argue that Bradley Jr. isn’t deserving of a Gold Glove (although that’s hard to argue). You can argue that Bradley should spend more time on his hitting (true). But who in their right mind is going to argue that it’s okay for a Yankee fan to call him a “n–ger coon?” Yes, I could ignore it, but that’s hard to do when it’s posted to Instagram.

It’s About Defending One Of Our Own

I have no doubt that some of my readers are going to slam me for bringing this up. But before they do so, ask yourself a question. Am I angry about this blog post, or am I more angry about what some Yankee fan said about our centerfielder and how he said it? Who are you going to defend? A bigoted Yankee Fan? Or Jackie Bradley Jr.?

I leave you with a quote from a great Boston-themed movie The Boondock Saints, “Now, we must all fear evil men. But, there is another kind of evil which we must fear most … and that is the indifference of good men!”

Don’t be indifferent to this reality.

Does Bigotry Plague Baseball?

I didn’t intend on thinking about the question “Does bigotry plague baseball?” this week. After all, it’s not an easy topic to discuss. But a question at a ballgame last weekend made me reflect. I was watching the Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway last Monday when a novice fan tapped me on the shoulder. “Can you tell me who the good players are?” Toronto was batting, and Jose Bautista was warming up in the on deckBigotry Plague Baseball circle. “He’s pretty good,” I said. “He’s the one who got a lot of flack for flipping his bat after hitting a home run last year.” The guy’s face lit up and pointed Bautista out to a friend while repeating what I said before turning back to me, “Who cares if he flipped his bat? He can’t get excited?”

What does a flipped bat have to do with bigotry? Purists of the game flipped (pun intended) after seeing Bautista’s enthusiastic gesture, which made many ask: Does bigotry plague baseball? After hearing what New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage said on ESPN, some say yes: “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him.” Many wondered why Gossage had to mention Bautista’s Latin heritage at all. Why is that important? Bautista isn’t the first to flip his bat. So for many, it’s not so much the enthusiasm that players show when they hit a home run, as much as how the color of their skin can sometimes influence the way opposing players and fans react. This issue has plagued baseball since the days of segregation, particularly the Red Sox, who were the last team in Major League Baseball to integrate when Pumpsie Green joined the team in 1959.

Baseball has made enormous strides towards combating bigotry. Jackie Robinson Day has become an annual celebration where all baseball players wear the number 42 to commemorate the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. But comedian Chris Rock recently made comments that made me think further about the problems with bigotry that remain in baseball. Rock said being a black baseball fan makes him an endangered specie while criticizing the game’s unofficial codes, “When you score in baseball,” Rock said on an episode of HBO’s Real Sports, “the code says: ‘You better not look too happy about it.'” Since then, Chris Rock has said that because of its conservative attributes, baseball is still living in the past and isn’t keeping up with what makes other sports so exciting. So when Bautista flipped his bat, many of those who love the history and tradition of the game found themselves at a crossroads. Many didn’t know how to defend their love for baseball’s honor without looking like they were also defending its flawed past. How do you defend the game’s longstanding traditions without acknowledging that past?

No One Wants to See Bigotry Plague Baseball

Of course, no rational person wants to see baseball return to the days of segregation.  However, it is important for baseball to continue with the strides it has made since Jackie Robinson integrated the majors. So if bat flipping signifies that baseball is progressing, then its purists should keep in mind that it’s not a departure from the honor in baseball, as much as it is a departure from the bigotry that plagued baseball in the first place. Issues like Bautista’s bat flip don’t always have to be about race and ethnicity, but it’s an effort that all parties have to keep in mind if the game is going to continue making strides towards equality.