Jeff Jacobs: Another Black Eye For Boston, But Fenway Fans Can Crush The Cowards

Shame them.

Have the courage to point them out to security.

Arrest them.

Identify them publicly with their accompanying mug shots, so mommy, daddy, the spouse and kids, and their bosses can share in the ignominy.

Shame the cowards.

For, if we don't, the shame is on us.

Monday night was ripe for problems at Fenway Park. There had been the incidents of the previous weekend in Baltimore. Manny Machado slid spikes high into Dustin Pedroia, and Matt Barnes, in awkward and belated retaliation, unleashed a fastball dangerously close to Machado's head. Sensing the interest and high emotion, ESPN flexed its coverage to broadcast the game nationally.

In the sixth inning, Machado homered and Dylan Bundy hit Mookie Betts in the hip with a 94 mph fastball. The Red Sox played lousy in the 5-2 defeat, committing four errors, including three in the eighth. The weather grew raw and, for those who remained, the disappointment grew rawer.

Yet in the high emotion of anticipation a few chose to take the lowest road possible. In the growing disappointment, a few resorted to behavior that went far beyond disappointing to vile and loathsome. Maybe they were drunk. Certainly they were morons.

After the game, Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones told USA Today and the Boston Globe that he had been subjected to racist taunts and one fan had thrown a bag of peanuts at him.

"I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight," Jones told the two reporters. "Thanks. Pretty awesome."

Jones said he had been targeted for racial taunts in the past at Fenway, but Monday was among the worst experiences of his 12-year major league career.

"It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being," Jones said to USA Today and the Boston Globe.

To their credit, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh responded quickly to the story Tuesday morning.

"The Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few," Kennedy said in the team's public apology to Jones.

"This is unacceptable and not who we are as a city," Walsh said. "These words and actions have no place in Fenway, Boston, or anywhere. We are better than this."

On WBZ-AM Walsh also said, "If they claim to be a sports fan, they're not a sports fan — nothing but a racist."

How could something like this happen in 2017? Aren't we beyond this? Aren't we better than this? You can ask yourself those weighty questions over and over and surely they will only serve to drive you crazy.

The urge among some is a predictable rush to Boston's history and smear the city with a sweeping indictment: "Boston is a racist town." Even many decades later, sports incidents bubble to the surface now and again. How about those racist tweets about Joel Ward and P.K. Subban after they scored playoff goals against the Bruins in recent years? What about Torii Hunter, in the past, saying he had heard racial taunts at Fenway? And now CC Sabathia? It isn't always the road team. Carl Crawford, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr. have told reporters in Boston they occasionally heard racial stuff directed at them.

The ugly actions are by the few and the anonymous, not the voice of the strong and the majority.

Boston is not a racist town in 2017. There are racists in Boston. Absolutely, there are. Maybe there are more by percentage than some cities and fewer than others. In either event, 2017 Boston is undeserving of the stinging broad brush of stereotype.

Yes, the Red Sox and Tom Yawkey were the last team to integrate. Yes, Bill Russell's home was once vandalized, racial slurs written on his walls, excrement left on his bed. Those also were many decades ago and look at a city's overwhelming love for David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez and Kevin Garnett right down to Isaiah Thomas.

Yet Boston and, in particular, Boston sports fans also must be mindful of the stereotype that defines them in the minds of some outsiders and many in minority communities. So many of those fans are quick and loud to defend themselves in reaction, pointing out the idiocy and hatred of a few mustn't paint the whole.

Those same fans should be equally quick to be proactive. They should shake off laziness, complacency and maybe a little fear. Fight the conditioned response to let somebody else take care of a problem.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience," Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

They are the highest-minded words and maybe they seemed a little forced in a sports column. Then again, knowing the power of athletics in our society, I don't think so. Stand up for the good guys or lie with the fleas infesting the bad ones.

Yes, the Red Sox can and should use Big Papi, Pedro, Mookie Betts, Bradley, Price and Chris Young to push the message of unity. Betts immediately stepped up to call on Red Sox fans to give Jones a standing ovation Tuesday. Baseball also can't fix the problem by itself. Neither can the athletes or the city. As much as it would help, there is no way pro sports teams will stop serving beer entirely — the almighty buck is color blind. There always will be some level of loud behavior. It mustn't turn ugly.

That's where the fans come in.

Shame the ugly few.

Alert security, text privately if needed.

Police should arrest them.

Identify them publicly with their accompanying mug shots for the world to see.

Prosecute them to the fullest.

The Red Sox confirmed that the fan who threw the peanuts at Jones in the dugout was identified and ejected from the game. The one or few who yelled the "N-word" at Jones were not. After listening to radio talk shows and reading anonymous comments at the end of some online stories, it is apparent some don't believe it happened as Jones described. And because he said he had heard there were 60 arrests during the game — when the Red Sox could confirm 34 — some absurdly used that as proof of his lack of credibility.

I believe Jones.

He doesn't play scared. When asked Tuesday, what he'd say to the guy who yelled the "N-word," Jones answered, "Square up. Let's fight. Get it over with." He also said, "Boo me. Tell me I suck. Just leave the racial stuff out."

Jones has done plenty for charity and the good of the community. That's why he was the Orioles' Clemente Award nominee last year. As protests in Baltimore turned violent following the death of Freddie Gray two years ago, he rose up and spoke in an attempt to be a uniting force.

Jones, who played for Team USA gold medalists at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, was one of only 62 African-American players on Opening Day rosters. Baseball fans from coast to coast have bemoaned the dwindling numbers. Jones has done something about it, working to get inner-city kids into the game. When he calls those few who abused him Monday "cowards," he's right.

"What they need to do is that instead of kicking them out of the stadium, they need to fine them 10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand," Jones told USA Today and the Boston Globe. "Something that really hurts somebody. Make them pay in full. And if they don't, take it out of their check.

"You suspend them from the stadium, what does that mean? It's a slap on the wrist. That guy needs to be confronted, and he needs to pay for what he's done."

As good as those words sound, it's difficult to imagine being able to get as much as a $30,000 fine. A lifetime ban from ballparks by MLB for offenders makes sense. As stern a fine as possible does, too. Public shame from being put through the judicial process as a "racist," to me, is the most fitting unmasking.

In Boston, New York, Hartford, everywhere thousands of fans congregate for sporting events, there are far more good guys than bad guys. The bad guys need to squirm. The good guys, the great majority, need to make them squirm … every single time.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people," Dr. King once said, "but the appalling silence of the good people."

Shame the cowards.

For, if we don't, the shame is on us.

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