BOSTON -- After what happened here Monday night, it's time to have a serious conversation about why and how such a vile incident occurred at Fenway Park. And how to make sure it never happens again.
Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones told two reporters that he was the target of racial epithets, including "the N-word a handful of times," and had a bag of peanuts thrown at him near the third-base dugout during a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox. In a statement Tuesday morning, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy confirmed the incident, labeled it "inexcusable," made a public apology to Jones and the Orioles and pledged to conduct an ongoing review of the matter.
That isn't enough. It isn't close to enough.
Boston, like many cities, has a complicated history with race. In baseball, specifically, Fenway Park hasn't been the most welcoming place for African-American players. The Red Sox were the last major league team to integrate, 12 years after Jackie Robinson's debut. Over the years, several players have admitted to hearing racial taunts, including left fielder Carl Crawford before he signed with the Red Sox in 2011. As recently as this past winter, Red Sox left-hander David Price told The Boston Globe that he dealt with such things last year in his first season with the Red Sox.
Kennedy has said repeatedly, including Tuesday, that the Red Sox have "zero tolerance" for such disgusting conduct in the ballpark and that anyone who engaged in racial intolerance is subject to ejection. Jones said he "heard there were 59 or 60 ejections" Monday night, although the Red Sox were saying the number was closer to 30.
Jones advocated for harsher deterrents, such as heavy fines that might make fans think twice before throwing something on the field and hurling a racial epithet at a player. The Red Sox should go a step further, too, and start a conversation about racism in the ballpark and across the city.
At a time when African-American participation in the game is approaching all-time lows -- 6.7 percent in the big leagues last season, according to the Society for American Baseball Research -- the Sox have four prominent black players on the roster: Price and outfielders Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chris Young.
"When you think of it -- Chris Young, Mookie, Jackie Bradley in the same outfield, my god, I find the older generation, we talk about it more than probably the younger folks do," said Robert Lewis Jr., founder and president of The BASE, a Boston-based program that uses baseball to help keep city kids out of trouble while also providing athletic and educational opportunities. "It's inspiring. It's exciting. And I think the Red Sox have an opportunity, not just putting it on paper. I think these guys could be the messengers out in the community talking to folks."
It isn't always the most comfortable subject, Boston's checkered history with race in sports. But it can't be ignored or denied either, not when players like Jones come forward and say it has happened to them. It wasn't the first time either, Jones said, that he has been degraded this way at Fenway during his 12-year career.
Jones will be back out in center field Tuesday night because that's his job. If there are fans who can't understand that, well, just stay home.