David Price told The Boston Globe he heard racist comments at Fenway Park. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)
David Price probably did hear racist taunts at Fenway Park last season. But that doesn’t mean Red Sox fans are bigoted. All it proves is that jerks reside everywhere, including Boston.
In a recent interview with The Boston Globe, Price said some fans sitting in the bleachers would jeer at him while he was warming up in the bullpen before games. Once in a while, he said the barbs would also become racial.
“I got it all,” Price said. “It’s all right. I don’t care about that. My mom is white and my dad is black. I’ve heard that since I’ve been in school. There’s nothing you can say to me that I haven’t heard before. Your ignorance is not going to affect what I’m trying to do. But I feel sad it’s still out there.”
Despite those comments, it doesn’t seem as if Price is making an overarching statement about race relations in Boston. Later in the piece, he says he loves the city and can’t wait for his first son to be born here. If Price thought Boston were racist, or was constantly bombarded with bigoted insults, it’s unlikely he would be appear so enthusiastic about living in the area.
In ballparks across the country, black players say they’ve heard racial slurs. In October, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said fans in Toronto hurled racial epithets at him and Hyon Soo Kim during the ALCS. A few months earlier, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward acknowledged he’s been taunted with bigoted comments during his career as well.
Conversations about Boston’s ugly history with race have been reignited in recent weeks after Celtics fans cheered Jazz forward Gordon Hayward during pre-game introductions earlier this month. Jae Crowder expressed frustration about that, which prompted some talking heads at ESPN to insinuate Celtics fans like Hayward because he’s white. Keep in mind, Crowder never mentioned race during his postgame rant. The talking point was fabricated.
The topic of black athletes being subjected to racism in Boston is low-hanging fruit for many, and the Red Sox are a big reason why. They were the last team to integrate, with former owner Tom Yawkey not signing a black player until 1959 –– well over a decade after the Dodgers had brought Jackie Robinson aboard. Because of this, and a gruesome episode in which vandals wrote racial slurs on Bill Russell’s walls and smeared feces on his bed, Boston’s sports teams are often intersected with the city’s racist past. It’s a lazy narrative, but that’s the perception.
Because of this gross mischaracterization, it’s tempting to dismiss Price’s words entirely. David Ortiz, a black Dominican-born man who didn’t step foot in Boston until he was 27 years old, is maybe the most beloved Red Sox player of all-time. As a group, baseball fans in Boston may have been racist 70 years ago. It’s insulting, and downright slanderous to say they’re still racist now.
The vast majority of people who attend games at Fenway Park would never think about hurling racist insults at anybody. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen once in a while. When Torii Hunter used to visit Fenway with the Twins, he says he heard some racial epithets thrown in his direction. In an interview with Rob Bradford, Jackie Bradley Jr. revealed he’s been subjected to racist taunts as well.
“I definitely had a lot of struggle in 2014. I think that was most racist type things that were directed toward me during that time,” he said.
In the same conversation, Bradley also praised Boston –– just like Price. That’s probably because they both know a couple of knuckleheads don’t speak for an entire city. While it’s essential to keep that reality in mind, it’s also important to remember that black athletes say these kinds of incidents still occur. Denying their existence is blissful ignorance.