The Boston Red Sox are back to making headlines for the wrong reasons. This time, it’s ownership who finds themselves in hot water.
Apparently, the Boston Red Sox still cannot avoid drama, even if they try to. This time, it isn’t the players who are receiving backlash, it’s Red Sox ownership.
According to Jen McCaffrey of Mass Live, The Yawkey Foundation issued a statement Wednesday in response to the Red Sox’ formal petition filed to restore Yawkey Way to its original name, Jersey Street.
Jersey Street was initially renamed Yawkey Way in 1977 following the death of former Red Sox owner and philanthropist Tom Yawkey. Yawkey Way has become one of the most well-known streets in sports, serving as an iconic game day environment to Red Sox fans all over the world. McCaffrey highlights the Yawkey Foundation’s response and explains why the Red Sox want to rename it:
"“We are deeply disappointed that Red Sox and Boston Globe owner John Henry has petitioned the city’s Public Improvement Commission to rename Yawkey Way, an action based on a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as the team’s owner,” the Yawkey Foundation statement began.Part of the reason for the Red Sox desire to rename the street is because of Yawkey’s racist history.The statement made note of the dozens of buildings and facilities throughout the city named after the Yawkey family.“To tarnish Tom Yawkey’s name by removing it from outside Fenway Park is to tarnish it everywhere,” the statement read."
This is a tough pill to swallow for many Red Sox fans. It’s an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed, even if the petition is declined. It’s never easy to mix politics and sports, especially before the season starts. The deadly combination could divide a fan base that certainly can use some unity after recent disappointments on and off the field.
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On one hand, a lot of the general public will argue that it’s time to remove Yawkey Way from the street associated with Fenway Park. Especially after Boston’s growing list of disgusting racial issues; mainly inside Fenway Park toward Adam Jones and CC Sabathia. One could argue any fan who shows discrimination toward black athletes, may represent the same disapproval Tom Yawkey allegedly had — something Boston wants to erase all together.
The Boston Red Sox at the helm of Yawkey were the last Major League team to integrate an African-American player, Pumpsie Green.
On the other hand, many could argue that we can’t base history off allegations and hearsay, and changing Yawkey Way so many years later would controversially changing history. The fans of Boston aren’t racist just because a select few have poorly represented a fan base.
Additionally, petitioning to change the name back to Jersey Street (which still exists but a blocker further down) seems counterproductive since the name of the street has been there since John I. Taylor bought the grounds in 1911. Jersey Street used to represent the home of Fenway Park for 66 years; 54 of those years were during America’s segregation period.
This potential name change would unintentionally represent discrimination in an eerily similar way Yawkey Way does to some now. The Yawkey Foundation didn’t take kindly to Henry and company requesting a name change, simply because Yawkey has had a great influence to not just Fenway Park, but Boston.
This was the official statement made by the Yawkey Foundation:
"We are deeply disappointed that Red Sox and Boston Globe owner John Henry has petitioned the city’s Public Improvement Commission to rename Yawkey Way, an action based on a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as the team’s owner.Henry asserts Tom Yawkey’s name should be expunged forever from outside Fenway Park because he is “haunted” by the fact that the Red Sox were the last Major League team to integrate, in 1959. But as Henry well knows, this is far from the whole story. He need only look at the Globe’s archives to see that the team under Tom Yawkey sought to acquire and promote black ballplayers throughout the 1950s.Henry is seeking to take the drastic action of renaming the street that has borne Yawkey’s name for more than 40 years without any apparent consideration of these facts. Worse, he fails to take into account the entirety of Tom Yawkey’s life and his generosity to the city he loved. His efforts saved the Jimmy Fund, one of Boston’s most enduring charities, and the foundations established by him and his wife, Jean, will ensure that there will be funding to help those in need for future generations.Former Red Sox ballplayers and club officials who knew Tom Yawkey have stated many times that he treated every player the same, regardless of their race. He also took an interest in their families and personal lives, and always gave them the support they needed, especially during difficult times. And he fielded diverse teams during the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when many of Boston’s institutions had yet to make meaningful progress in hiring minorities. The full picture of Tom Yawkey’s life is exactly the opposite of the one that Henry has tried to paint.Tom Yawkey’s name is now honored throughout Boston; dozens of organizations – among the beneficiaries of the more than $300 million the Yawkey Foundations have donated to charities in the city — have proudly put the Yawkey name on buildings and facilities made possible by the grants they have received.Keenly aware of this unparalleled legacy of giving, Henry has praised the Foundations and said their good works should be considered apart from his call to rename Yawkey Way. But the name of the street is synonymous with the name of the Foundations. To tarnish Tom Yawkey’s name by removing it from outside Fenway Park is to tarnish it everywhere.As he proceeds with his misguided effort to rename Yawkey Way, it is important to know that Henry showed no reluctance to associate the Red Sox with Tom Yawkey when the team, in 2012, sought to place Fenway Park on the U.S. Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.Indeed, the team’s application highlighted Yawkey’s long tenure as owner, noting, “Thomas Yawkey . . . is credited with rebuilding the team as well as the ballpark. He was active until his death in 1976, at which time Jersey Street, upon which the main facade of the ballpark faces, was renamed Yawkey Way in his honor.” In describing the ballpark’s unique characteristics, the application states “. . . the initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey were written in Morse code along the side of the scoreboard.”Clearly, Tom Yawkey’s achievements during his historic 43-year ownership of the Red Sox were integral to Henry’s success in obtaining the designation, and a similar one from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which has resulted in more than $80 million in state and federal tax credits for the Red Sox. There was no hint in the applications for the designations that Yawkey Way would not remain as a testament to Yawkey’s stewardship of the team and the ballpark itself.In reviewing a petition to change the name of a street, the Public Improvements Commission is not a rubber stamp, but has the power to examine “legitimate concerns” raised by a proposed name change, in addition to how it might affect historic preservation.We urge the commission to consider all the facts concerning Tom Yawkey’s ownership of the Red Sox and the sweep of his life, and recognize that although Yawkey Way is a public street owned by the city, it has become as much a part of the history of Fenway Park as the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole. We are confident that if it does so, it will reject Henry’s petition."
Regardless, the ongoing battle between the Boston Red Sox and the Yawkey Foundation could spill over into the regular season, should this issue present itself in court.