During a Red Sox-Orioles game Tuesday at Fenway Park, fans gave Baltimore’s Adam Jones an ovation, in a show of support after the player said racist comments were directed at him in the stadium the night before. That game also included an incident in which a Boston fan said another fan used a racial slur, and the team announced Wednesday that it had permanently banned the man accused of employing that language.
“The Red Sox organization will not tolerate the use of racial slurs at Fenway Park, and we have apologized to those affected,” the team said in a statement. “There is no place for racial epithets at Fenway Park, in baseball, or in our society. The Red Sox have turned the matter over to the Boston Police Department, who will further investigate with their civil rights unit and determine whether it merits further action.”
According to the Boston Globe, a fan named Calvin Hennick reported the incident Tuesday to an usher at Fenway, who notified stadium security. The man who received the ban reportedly denied that he used the slur.
A Kenyan woman sang the national anthem before the game, and afterward, Hennick said that a man he described as white, middle-aged and wearing a Red Sox hat and T-shirt leaned over to him. The man, Hennick claimed in a Facebook post, used the n-word while disparaging the rendition of the anthem, saying the singer “n—-ed it up.”
Hennick, a white man who was attending the game with his son and his father-in-law, who is black, told the Globe that he was “aghast” at the remark. “But I wanted to be 100 percent sure I heard him right,” he said, so he asked the man about the specific language he’d used.
“Yes, that’s what I said, and I stand by it,” Hennick said the man told him. When told that kind of language was not okay, the man reportedly said to Hennick, “Why not?”
After reporting the incident, Hennick and his family were moved to different seats, then he was asked to come to a concourse to identify the man and repeat the language he’d heard. “I was totally happy to do that, because if he was going to deny it, I wanted him to deny it to my face like the coward he was,” Hennick said.
“The offending individual was promptly ejected from the ballpark, and has since been notified they are no longer welcome at Fenway Park,” the Red Sox said in their statement.
“A bit of an unusual situation, where the fan that came forward was in a conversation with another fan who used derogatory, unacceptable language,” Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said Wednesday (via WEEI). “It was awful, and as I understand it, [he] actually asked the other person to repeat what they just said, confirm that they just said it. That’s what happened. Immediately, the fan made us aware of it, thankfully, so we were able to address it right away.”
Kennedy said that, to his knowledge, this was the first time the team had banned a fan from Fenway Park for life. “I’m here to send a message loud and clear that the behavior, the language, the treatment of others that you’ve heard about and read about is not acceptable,” he said.
Kennedy had made a point of approaching Jones and shaking the outfielder’s hand before Tuesday’s game. After Monday’s game, Jones told reporters that he was “called the n-word a handful of times” by Red Sox fans, who also threw a bag of peanuts at him.
“It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being,” Jones said. However, the O’s star said before Tuesday’s game that he thought the way the Red Sox and MLB “got ahead” of the aftermath of Monday’s incident “was tremendous.”
Other black players have also spoken of racist treatment at Fenway Park and at other sports venues in the city. “You get called names, n-word, all kinds of stuff when you go to Boston,” Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia recently said.
“It’s horrendous,” Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts said. “It’s 2017 and we’re still kind of dealing with that, especially with how integrated everything is. For me to be here, and have Boston represent me, and for me to represent Boston, and to hear something like that going on, that definitely hurts me, really.”
The Red Sox appear to determined to counter the image of their stadium and city as places openly hostile to minorities, but Hennick, shaken by his experience, was left pondering the hate he may not have fully realized was in his midst.
“This makes you wonder how many people are thinking [a racist thought] and not saying it,” he said. “People are feeling very comfortable with bigotry that we haven’t seen in a long time.”