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A Standing Ovation isn’t Good Enough

The recent situation involving Baltimore Orioles star Adam Jones is not something that should be shrugged off. Jones maintains that in Monday’s game in Boston, he was confronted with racist taunts from Red Sox fans who even went so far as to hurl a bag of peanuts at him. In the hours following the incident a barrage of conflicting stories have emerged. Everything from testimonies from former players acknowledging similar experiences with the city to defensive Boston natives questioning whether Jones’ account is even true have surfaced.

First off, let us dispel any misconceptions right now. Just because you have never heard of something happening does not automatically make it not true. The people who are questioning Jones are probably the same people who think you can’t be pulled over without doing something wrong. “It’s never happened to me in my tiny worldview so therefore it’s invalid.” This is a highly ignorant approach. On top of that, why in the world would anyone make up such a claim?

Long labored progress on race relations has still not reached fruition. It is most definitely still an issue. New age racism is less overt. Racists have become adept at hiding behind other causes for their actions. For the same reason a police officer feels their life is in danger, you can be denied a bank loan. Prejudices are natural. We all come from different backgrounds which in turn shape our opinions. The difference however between these prejudices and full on racism is our actions. Acting with intent on a prejudice of a group is racism whether it be subtle or overt.

Unfortunately, Boston has an unsavory history in the overt side. NBA legend Bill Russell has been candid about his treatment as a player there. From jeers and abuse to fans infamously vandalizing his home, he saw it all. For many, this example is easy to shrug off. Bostonians feel that these events were so long ago that it is not fair to hold anything against them. Except the fact is that was only one generation ago. If our opinions are shaped by our background, we must learn from our environment. If a generation ago this behavior was accepted, who is to say that it was not at least somewhat passed on a generation further?

Current players have backed Jones’ claim. Yankee’s pitcher CC Sabathia shared his own trying experience dealing with the Boston crowd.

Before the Yankees’ game Tuesday, Sabathia had this to say:

“We know. There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it,” — “I’ve never been called the N-word” anywhere but in Boston.

He specified that the treatment mostly occurred in his time with the Cleveland Indians, citing a well staffed security crew in New York as a deterrent to unruly fans.

On the Cleveland experience, he continued:

“Even shagging in the outfield before the game sometimes you get it,” said Sabathia, who says he told people what he was subjected to at the time, but it didn’t resonate. “I was just in Cleveland, so nobody cared.”

Not to single out Boston but where there’s smoke there is most often fire. Red Sox fans made an attempt to show their support for Jones by giving him a strong standing ovation upon his first time at the plate on Tuesday. It was a nice gesture but it was just that, a gesture. Spending 30 seconds clapping does not suffice for a solution to a problem that is much deeper. The conflict in Boston was just a glimpse into what happens daily for thousands of minorities well outside Boston’s 617 area code. Adam Jones was smart enough to use his platform to bring light to the issue. He has urged Major League baseball to hold fans accountable.

Jones should not accept the standing ovation as an apology for his pain and suffering. He should not accept MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments. A standing ovation isn’t good enough. Comments saying we will try harder next time are not good enough. Racism in 2017 should not be tolerated let alone shrugged off like it was just another day at the ballpark. Major League Baseball just now putting processes in place to curtail racism at their games is the equivalent of universities just now learning to not let sexually violent criminals on their athletics teams. There shouldn’t be a need for such a policy.

The United States has made great strides in race relations in the last 60 years but we still are not there yet. We need to be conscious of how we treat each other for fear of reversing all that progress. And it should not take such horrific discourse happening to a celebrity for us all to take notice.

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