Boston Sports Teams Launch ‘Critical' Initiative to Combat Racism

Stung by the stigma of racist incidents in Boston, local sports teams are coming together to mount a campaign to combat racism in the city. 

The Red Sox teamed up with the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Revolution and came together at Fenway Park on Thursday to launch their effort to stop racism and hate speech.

"It's important that we take our positions of leadership seriously," said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox President and CEO. "We're accountable for having these conversations."

They urged fans to take a stand after several recent incidents involving racism at Fenway this season. 

The collaboration between the five teams featured a public service announcement with various athletes asking fans to stand up to racism and hate speech. The videos played at Fenway, Gillette Stadium and TD Garden.

The "Take the Lead" initiative will offer fellowships to build work experiences at each team and have the teams partner together for a career fair.

"We hope that these initiatives will inspire others to lend their voices, their energy and their commitment to the important work that is in front of all of us," Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said at the launch, which featured legendary black athletes and prominent black activists in the Boston community.

Among those who shared remarks was the Reverend Liz Walker, the pastor of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church, who called the need to have a conversation about racism and race "critical."

"Racism is a wound that runs deep. It is the root of generations of distrust and defensiveness and misunderstanding, and whether we admit it or not, we all bear its power and pain," Walker said.

Earlier this month, a banner was unfurled over the left field wall during the fourth inning of a Red Sox game that read, "Racism is as American as baseball." When asked what he thought about the banner after the game, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts responded, "There's no place for that. That's for another day, though."

In May, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was a the target of a racial slur at Fenway. The five-time All-Star said he was "called the N-word a handful of times."

"It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being," Jones said. "Boo me... just keep the racist stuff out of it. 

Jones said he met with Red Sox owner John Henry following the incident, who promised to take action. 

"There's a long history of these kind of incidents in Boston," Jones said. 

Even Red Sox players have cited racism.

Pitcher David Price told the Boston Globe some fans were taunting him during his warmups last season. At times, he said, "it got pretty rough."

Another initiative that is also underway is a potential change in the name of Yawkey Way. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said last month that he wants to see the name of Yawkey Way changed.

He said he's "haunted" by the racist legacy of Yawkey, the former owner of the Red Sox owner for whom the street is named. He said the team should lead the way in renaming the street outside Fenway Park, which has borne Yawkey's name for four decades.

The city would have to approve the name change.

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