History of Racial Abuse
Seventy years ago last month, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the modern MLB era. The racial abuse that he took throughout his career is quite well known. Had it not been for a Hall of Fame shortstop from Louisville, Kentucky, Jackie’s big league life would have most likely been much rougher. Seventy years of integration on the baseball diamond should have seen racial abuse die out. Unfortunately, this mentality is still alive and well, and it showed itself on May 1 at Boston’s Fenway Park.
May 1 Incident
Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones dealt with racists taunts and insults from the Red Sox fans. To add potential injury to the insults, at approximately 8:22 EST, a fan hurled a projectile at him.
Somebody just threw something at Adam Jones as he was walking down into the dugout. Security searching for culprit. pic.twitter.com/aNiQ9pchqX
— Avi Miller (@AviMiIIer) May 2, 2017
Jones told the press post-game, “A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me. I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight. Thanks. Pretty awesome.’’
The Orioles went on to win the game behind the power of Manny Machado. But the nasty taste of racism, which Jones has experienced in other cities as well, in the modern baseball park is without a doubt a stain on the game.
Modern Racial Abuse
Unfortunately, this is not the first report of racial abuse occurring in Fenway. Earlier this year, the Red Sox own David Price told the Boston Globe that he heard racial abuse when pitching bullpen sessions last season. Nor is this the first racial abuse that Jones has taken in the big leagues. Last year, in the wild card game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Jones claimed that Toronto fans hurled slurs at both himself and Hyun Soo Kim. This occurred following an incident in which a fan threw a beer can into the outfield to attempt to distract Kim from making a catch. Many more instances exist, and sadly they continue to happen. They will keep happening unless Commissioner Rob Manfried steps up and knocks racism out.
Fans have a duty to behave in a decent matter towards the players on the field. They are playing a game for our enjoyment, a game which allows them to earn a livelihood and take care of their families, and a game in which an injury can cut a career off in an instant. Fans should never throw projectiles onto the field. Player safety is paramount.
Major League Baseball should take a solid stand against racial abuse from the stands. The league should ban individuals for the ballpark for life. Perhaps it should follow FIFA’s lead, and make teams whose fans that misbehave play in a shuttered stadium. The concept knocks out the “well, we can’t do anything” mentality that the owners may have, because fan misbehavior could cost them financially. Handing ejected fans to the local police for breach of peace could also be a solution to keep responsibility on the hands of the people who commit these egregious acts.
There is no room for racial abuse coming from the stands in any sport, especially not in the Church of Baseball, and especially not in 2017. After seventy years of integrated baseball, how is the pennant race not the only race that matters on the field? Commissioner Manfred, the ball is in your court. It’s time to make hard decisions for the safety and dignity of the teams and players.