A banner reading “Racism is as American as baseball” was hung over the Green Monster at Fenway Park during a game between the Red Sox and Athletics on Wednesday night. It reportedly remained in place for a few minutes before being removed by stadium security, and the fans who hung the sign were ejected.
“We are a group of white anti-racist protesters,” the fans said in a statement to The Post. “We want to remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism. White people need to wake up to this reality before white supremacy can truly be dismantled. We urge anyone who is interested in learning more or taking action to contact their local racial justice organization.”
“During the fourth inning of tonight’s game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left field wall in violation of the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” the Red Sox said in a statement. “The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park.”
A member of the group, who spoke with The Post via email on condition of anonymity, said the group at Fenway consisted of five individuals, with the fifth member “doing documentation across the stadium.” The person said the quintet was “not associated with any particular organization although all of us do work as organizers in various Boston groups that combat white supremacy and racism.”
“We are responding to a long history of racism and white supremacy in the United States that continues to pervade every aspect of American culture today,” the protester said, adding of the decision to stage their demonstration at a nationally televised Red Sox game, “We deliberately chose a platform in an attempt to reach as many people as possible.”
Some observers Wednesday were left confused as to whether the banner was a condemnation or an endorsement of racism. “I guess we should have seen that coming but we also didn’t think of it as an ambiguous message,” a group member told CNN NE. “It’s kind of telling that it is being interpreted as one.”
According to ESPN, third base umpire Joe West was involved in the decision to have the sign and fans removed, and some other fans at the ballpark booed as the foursome was escorted out.
Umpire Joe West got together with Boston police officials and park security to have the fans who held up this sign removed from Fenway pic.twitter.com/EZYo94WqMR
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) September 14, 2017
Episodes of racism are deeply entwined in the history of the Red Sox, who were the last franchise in MLB to integrate, passing on the likes of Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. Red Sox owner John Henry recently said he was pushing to change the name of a street outside Fenway to no longer honor the longtime former owner associated with racist practices.
In May, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he was “called the n-word” by Red Sox fans at Fenway. The team issued an apology, and Boston and MLB officials condemned the incident.
Shortly after that, the Red Sox permanently banned a fan who was reported by another fan for having used a racial slur. “There is no place for racial epithets at Fenway Park, in baseball, or in our society,” the team said at the time.
One of the protesters Wednesday told CNN NE that “the banner came in response to the racist comments” directed at Jones. “We see Boston continually priding itself as a kind of liberal, not racist city, and are reminded also constantly that it’s actually an extremely segregated city,” the person said. “It has been for a long time, and that no white people can avoid the history of racism, essentially.”
Earlier this year, Red Sox pitcher David Price said he heard racial slurs hurled at him from the Fenway stands in 2016, when he was struggling in the first year of a large contract with Boston. In the wake of the Jones incident, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said his office would look into establishing league wide “guidelines” for handling such episodes.
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