What happened last week in Boston sadly shows that no matter how far baseball seems to have progressed since Jackie Robinson’s major league debut in 1947, it still resembles America’s non-post-racial ways.
2017 racism is virtually no different from 1947 racism. Robinson in ’47 was called the N-word and oft-taunted, simply because of his skin color. Adam Jones, 70 years later, heard racial taunts and had a bag of peanuts thrown on the field at him in Boston’s Fenway Park, simply because of his skin color. On successive days the Red Sox ejected and banned for life two racist fans for their behavior.
Then and now exists avowed cultural conditioning practitioners: Whites are superior and Blacks are inferior, whether you are a ballplayer or the president of the United States.
Jones, a Baltimore Orioles outfielder, and his agent both call for “tougher, more concrete rules” whenever racist actions threaten Black ballplayers. Last week wasn’t an aberration according to other Black players in published reports.
During his Twin Cities visit last Friday, the MSR asked MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred if such behavior may drive away the few remaining Black fans from baseball games. “Obviously our goal is to have an environment in all of our 30 ballparks that is welcoming for fans of all racial backgrounds,” he responded.
Robinson’s major league debut came almost a decade before this reporter’s birth, so we asked Jim Robinson, who as a youngster watched his namesake, for his historical reflections on this matter. “He was called the N-word because no one felt it was right for Black players [to] play with White players,” Robinson recalled.
There probably are others just like those two racist knuckleheads last week in Boston who think alike but aren’t bold enough to show it. Robinson told us he wasn’t totally surprised: racism in Beantown historically is “not subtle there. They let you know in a minute that you’re not wanted.”
“We work hard to have a family-friendly and diversity-friendly environment,” pledged Manfred. “And we will continue to do that.”
For a true diversity-friendly atmosphere to really exist, I’d strongly suggest that all 30 MLB stadiums, in fact, all sports venues in this country, invoke a 21st Century prohibition against selling alcohol before and during games – in essence, become dry places.
If the commish really wants MLB family-friendly parks, and if possible “racist-free” baseball games, then eliminate alcohol sales. If people must drink, let them go to the downtown bars after games. Train existing stadium security to give sobriety tests to those who come to the park intoxicated, and don’t let them in if busted.
This may not totally eliminate racial taunts from fans toward Black players, but you can’t legislate morality. This would at least be a strong signal of zero tolerance in this regard.
Alcohol oftentimes can make cowards of us all. It makes you say and do things that normally you wouldn’t think of doing. A couple of beers or other such spirits give you the Cowardly Lion-type courage to let your true feelings come through. Especially if you are racist.
Over the years some “brave” person was bold enough while intoxicated to say racist things to me. If they can say that when drunk, you’d better believe they think that when they’re not.
“We want to make sure we know exactly what the clubs are doing before we start recommending some changes,” said Manfred.
Last week, Boston showed us by its example that baseball — and America — is as far from being post-racial as we are from the man in the moon.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.