Red Sox owner John Henry shows selective outrage over Yawkey Way
By Rick McNair
Boston Red Sox owner John Henry is advocating a name change for Yawkey Way. Henry is upset about the connection to the racial history of the team. Does he extend this outrage or just limit it?
Boston Red Sox owner John Henry wishes to expunge a decision made forty years ago to name a street after former owner Tom Yawkey.
By now the issue has been beaten, spindle, folded and mutilated, but that most certainly will not prevent me or others from continuing the discussion. A discussion that viewing media sites has been far greater than the usual baseball brush fires.
Henry’s stated goal is to attempt to eradicate a segment in Red Sox history that parallels the history of our country – racism. Was Yawkey a racist? That is a topic I have written about several times and there is a wealth of information that apparently confirms that Yawkey was.
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The usual defense is Yawkey was “A product of his time” and – unfortunately – I cannot dismiss that. I actually remember going to a minstrel show as a child. I remember all too clearly separate facilities in an extended stay in Charleston, South Carolina as a young teen.
Yawkey was an unusually complex person. An alcoholic who provided funds for a local madam, to open a bordello near his southern estate for his enjoyment and entertainment of friends, including baseball players. Yawkey certainly had a legion of personal flaws.
Yawkey’s generosity is legendary and the Yawkey Trust is a focal point for charity. Yawkey would discreetly pay medical expenses and provide financial support for friends who had seen far better times. Yawkey fawned on his players and that certainly influenced how business was done. Most notably is Yawkey saved the Red Sox. Without Yawkey they would not be in Boston. But is there a scale of justice for positives and negatives?
The Yawkey management team comprised three notable individuals who supported the Red Sox policy. Eddie Collins was General Manager until 1948 when Joe Cronin replaced him. Later Cronin – elevated to President of the American League – was replaced by Pinky Higgins. Higgins, in particular, was quite open regarding race and baseball. You can read Higgins comments here. All contributed to the toxic attitude towards race and baseball.
Henry taking a stand by advocating that Yawkey Way be renamed may be a noble gesture, but why stop there? What about Yawkey being in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Will Henry go on record and become baseball’s catalyst to expunge the genocide against Native Americans by challenging the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves to a name change?
That is not the core issue, but merely an ancillary one since the topic on the table is the “R” word and that comes down to a business – John W. Henry & Company, Inc. Just what companies have had a connection with Henry? Here is a short list of institutions that profited from the slave trade – there are far more.
Did Henry have any involvement with any of those companies? How many companies connected via advertizing with the Red Sox have a taint of racism in their past? Would Henry be willing to cut ties? Is Henry as uncomfortable with past practices? There may be none but based on the historical tentacles of slavery that would be surprising.
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I don’t mind outrage since I occasionally wallow in it. And – like Henry – I also have been selective in my outrage, but if Henry wishes to bring up racism in his organization then do have the courage to go full tilt and not be selective.