There have been some notable acts lately in pro sports to clean up their act when it comes to racism. As an example, a statue of former Minnesota Twins’ owner Calvin Griffith was removed from its place outside Target Field in Minneapolis because of racist remarks Griffith made in 1978. Apparently, he said he moved the franchise from Washington, D.C. to the Minneapolis and St. Paul Twin Cities because they had so few black people there.
Personally, I’m surprised they had a statue of him. He was such a cheapskate, he kept the Twins near the cellar for much of the 1970s and into the ‘80s.
In Washington, D.C., the city’s events and sports authority, Events DC, has removed a monument to the former owner of the Washington NFL franchise, George Preston Marshall, from its location outside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. I can understand this one. He was one of the founders of the team when they were in Boston and were called the Boston Braves after the National League baseball franchise in the city (How many of you knew the Atlanta Braves started in Boston? How many of you knew they were also in Milwaukee for a time?)
Marshall was also a racist. When he moved the team to Washington in 1933, he changed the name to the Redskins, which even then was considered a derogatory term for Native Americans. He also refused to integrate the team, even after black players had become successful with every other NFL franchise. He only integrated the team in 1962 after then- U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy threatened to pull his lease on what was then D.C. Stadium because they were in violation of the District’s civil rights laws.
I should mention the Redskins have removed Marshall from their Ring of Fame at FedEx Field and have eliminated references to him on their website. Even his granddaughter has said no one should honor him and the franchise should change its name.
In baseball, there’s speculation that Fenway Park in Boston could become a major hot spot of racial activism. That’s not just because their late long-time owner, Tom Yawkey, was considered a racist. The problems here are the fans.
According to the stories I’ve read, black players have stated they hear more and louder racial epithets at Fenway Park than any other ballpark. One of them was Adam Jones. He played for the Baltimore Orioles for some years before he played for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He dreaded playing in Boston because of the abuse heaped on him. He finally had enough and talked back to some of the fans who were taunting him.
There are black players who have it written into their contracts they cannot be traded to the Boston Red Sox.
Apparently, “blue state” Boston isn’t as tolerant as a “liberal” city should be.
It’s worth noting the Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate. They didn’t do it until 1959, when they brought in Pumpsie Green. That was 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line. The team had a chance to make history and sign Robinson in 1943, and they had a chance to later sign Willie Mays. In both cases, Yawkey said no.
That alone would’ve been a good reason for the City of Boston to change the name of one of the street’s that runs by Fenway Park from “Yawkey Way.” It was named that after his death.
So, what can be done about the racist fans in Boston? Perhaps visiting players could follow the lead of black soccer players in Europe. When they’ve experienced excessive racial taunts, they’ve left the field, and their teammates have followed in support.
Given all that has happened this summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd, I don’t expect black ballplayers will be so tolerant of racists at Fenway Park. I suspect some sort of confrontation is inevitable.
This could get interesting.