A few weeks ago, the sport of baseball was subjected to an instance of racism that created a buzz around the league and in the media nationwide.
Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones – a 12-year MLB veteran, five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and known as one of the good guys in today’s game – said a group of fans directed derogatory taunts at him and even threw a bag of peanuts toward him during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Jones called the incident “unfortunate” and said that sort of behavior has no place in today’s game.
It’s mind-boggling that here in 2017, we are still addressing racism in sports.
Even if the Red Sox fans who targeted Jones were just a small group of bad apples, it’s disappointing that they would resort to racist remarks against an opposing player.
I will be the first to admit that when I go to Citi Field as a New York Mets fan, I of course want the visiting team to fail. If the visiting team fails, that means the Mets win, which is exactly what I would like to see as a fan.
Sure there may be some chants targeting opposing players, but pulling the race card in any situation totally crosses the line.
Here in Brooklyn, we have witnessed firsthand the ugly face of racism in baseball through Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, who broke the sport’s color barrier on April 15, 1947. Fans and even opposing players were ruthless toward Robinson, but he somehow was able to find the inner strength to rise above the noise and perform valiantly on the field.
Times were different back in the late 1940s. While that certainly does not excuse the racist behavior, those were the societal norms.
Today though, to think this is still an issue – again even if only a small group of fans – really is difficult to comprehend. No player in today’s game should ever have to endure any hint of racism on or off the field.
Players like Robinson, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Minnie Miñoso and Ernie Banks paved the way so that players like Jones would never have to experience that sort of overt racism as they attempted to play the game they love.
In what was a moving gesture, Red Sox fans gave Jones a standing ovation during his first at-bat the day after the incident. It does not take back what happened, but it shows the good majority of fans have compassion for what Jones had to endure.
Hopefully, we can chalk this up to just a few degenerate fans. However, seeing racism rear its ugly head at the ballpark reminds us that it is still an underlying issue in our society.
Kudos to Jones for having the courage to speak out against the racist taunts directed at him. He understood this issue is bigger than the game and let that be known.
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Jones back in the winter of 2012 at MLB’s annual B.A.T. Dinner in Manhattan. With names like Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver and Carlos Beltrán in attendance, Jones was as star struck as I was to see all these baseball legends in the same room.
Jones won a special award that night for his tireless work in the Baltimore community. He was so gracious and kind – a true giant as a man and professional baseball player.
It was thus upsetting to see him have to go through the recent episode of racism recently. He deserves so much better for what he has done in his 12-year pro career.
Jones rose above the hate, and now it’s the responsibility of all baseball fans in every ballpark around the country to do the same.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.