The Adam Jones incident in Boston is not just one isolated incident. It is the one incident that has been reported but I see so much of it today in both the stands and yes even in the press box. I will never forget when a known sports on-air personality once said to me, “February is Black History Month—When are we going to have White History Month”?
In my book Press Box Revolution I cite numerous examples of archaic thinking when it comes to race relations in sports and I’ve always felt the closest racists are much more scary than the blatant racists. When I hear people say things like “Curtis Granderson speaks real well” it makes my skin crawl because I know what they are saying and thinking—How can a black person speak so well? I’ve seen it time and time again and even though some might think the “racism angle” is an angle used by minorities, it is generally an honest depiction of what’s wrong with the world.
As a white man, I can NEVER fully understand what it is like to walk in a black person’s shoes but what I can do is recognize racism, shout it from the rooftops, and hold racist people accountable for their actions. I heard the fans in New York do the same things we saw in Boston to every Georgetown player that hit the court at Madison Square Garden and even when Patrick Ewing became a Knick I heard the rumblings. The way Willie Randolph was covered and treated in this town is downright embarassing while managing the Mets and the fact Dave Winfield was not appreciated in NY while we revere a baseball owner in George Steinbrenner who committed a crime in trying to discredit that player is downright appalling.
Those fans in Fenway remind us that despite the fact sports has made giant steps in trying to curb racism, we still have a long way to go. We just honored Jackie Robinson this past April 15th and that is certainly a great day to remember. But to really honor Jackie, we need to step up when we see racism. I have honestly tried to do that and have sometimes been scolded by colleagues for it. I have to do a better job of ignoring that and remaining steadfast on pointing out these issues.
I grew up loving Muhammad Ali before it was chic to love him because he stood up for what he believed in despite the fact it cost him dearly. There is so much division in our country right know over a myriad of topics. We have allowed racism to come back full circle as both political parties have attached their agendas to this issue. But the bottom line is this—Many white reporters love black players until they become “passionate” about certain issues. They sometimes refer to them as “militant” or “clubhouse lawyers”. I live on the notion that as a true American you MUST fight racism or just be part of the problem. Otherwise, incidents like the one we saw at Fenway Park will become far too commonplace—and not just in the stands—in the press boxes as well.