Adam Jones speaks out on being racially taunted at Fenway Park calling it unfortunate and one of the worst nights of his career. USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON — Baltimore Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones arrived Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, saw the news cameras lined along the streets, the horde of reporters awaiting, and knew he had made a difference.
He delivered the wake-up call that Major League Baseball not only needed, but all of society.
Seventy years and 17 days have passed since Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, but as Jones reminded us Monday evening, and reiterated Tuesday, racism is alive and well in this country.
Jones was taunted by racial slurs during the Orioles game Monday night against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and even had a bag of peanuts thrown at him entering the dugout, telling USA TODAY Sports it was one of the worst incidents he’s had to endure in his 12-year career.
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There was immediate reaction and outrage. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh issued an apology before folks even showed up to work, saying, “We are better than this.” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker tweeted that the Fenway Park fans’ behavior was unacceptable. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy apologized and said he planned an investigation. Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement reminding teams they should remove anyone using offensive language from the ballpark.
The racial epithets directed towards Jones dominated the news cycle of every TV channel and radio station in town, resurrecting the stereotypes and skeletons of Boston’s past, reminding us the Red Sox were the last baseball team to integrate in 1959.
“I’ve never been called the N-word anywhere but Boston,’’ New York Yankees veteran pitcher CC Sabathia told reporters. “There’s 62 of us (African-American players). We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.’’
Jones, who said he was called a racial slur a handful of times Monday night, was asked how many times he’s heard that type of language at Fenway Park. He couldn’t come up with a number, saying he doesn’t have enough hands and toes to count.
“It’s giving the city, the fan base, a bad reputation,’’ said Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “It’s unacceptable.’’
The hideous and repulsive reality is that this isn’t limited to Boston. It happens virtually every day. In almost every ballpark. Just ask every African-American player who has played the game, and you’ll hear the chilling stories.
They’ll talk about the slurs coming from the stands, the racist mail delivered to them and the ugly behavior exhibited when alcohol gives fans liquid courage.
“When Dusty (Baker) and I were in Chicago,’’ former pitcher LaTroy Hawkins said, “we were called every name but the name our parents gave us. We got all of the derogatory hate mail. You didn’t really talk about it, because it brings out more clowns and unwanted attention.
“People will say, ‘You should just ignored it, and stop being a cry baby.’ ”
Jones, 31, scared that he was becoming almost immune to the racial slurs, finally had enough. He showed the courage to speak out, condemn the actions from fans, never raising his voice, only expressing his frustration and exasperation.
“I thought we moved past that a long time ago,’’ Jones said, “but obviously what’s going on in the real world, things like this, people are outraged and speaking up at an alarming rate.
“It’s unfortunate I had to be involved in it.’’