Red Sox owner issues strong statement denouncing 'racism and hate'

Red Sox owner John Henry has expressed a desire to change the name of Yawkey Way. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry is encouraging local fans to engage in “united opposition to racism and hate in all their forms.” Henry released a statement Thursday as part of the team’s “Take the Lead” initiative, which is aimed at fighting racism.


The statement read:

Today, joined by the other major professional sports teams who call Boston and New England their home, the Boston Red Sox call for united opposition to racism and hate in all of their forms.

We, like many Americans, made the mistake of thinking that our region’s and country’s less than stellar pasts were firmly behind us, that 21st century America was becoming a more inclusive nation committed to celebrating diversity. That is not the case.

While this gathering in Boston has been planned for quite some time, the events of the last few days have caused many in the wider world of sports to realize just how important it is to stand — or kneel — together to right some of these wrongs. While this is conversation that many of us in sports would rather leave to others, at some point these wrongs can no longer be ignored.

We do not have the option of sitting out that conversation and, in fact, we never have. From Jackie Robinson to Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali to Tommie Smith, John Carlos, the Miami Heat in memory of Trayvon Martin, Colin Kaepernick and those who have joined him in protesting racial injustice, sports figures cannot sit out national debates any more than others can.

Our sports teams, our athletes, are woven into the fabric of our society. For that reason, we cannot remain silent nor still.

This day represents a new beginning to that dialogue locally, leavened with honesty and determination for a future that will place us on the right side of history.

Thank you, Tom Werner, Robert Kraft and Wyc Greensbeck, Stephen Pagliaca, and Jeremy Jacobs for sharing this vision and forging this partnership.

Our teams occupy a special place in the fabric of New England life. We have a unique platform to demonstrate what it means to be a good citizen, to take care of our neighbors, to promote inclusion. With that platform comes a responsibility to do exactly that.

That’s why we are taking the lead today. We hope you will lend your voices, your energy and you committment to this important effort.”

The “gathering” Henry is referencing in the statement is the team’s “Take the Lead” project. The event, which takes place Thursday, features members from each New England sports franchise speaking on race and hate speech in sports. 

The event has been in the works since Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones heard racial taunts at Fenway Park in May.

Henry’s statement is by far the strongest to be issued by a team owner thus far. Not just in Major League Baseball, but in every sport.

For the most part, protests have been contained to the National Football League. Those escalated last Sunday after Donald Trump made derogatory comments toward players taking a knee on the field.

Those comments inspired Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday. Maxwell remains the only baseball player to make that statement. He explained his reasons for taking a knee to our own Jeff Passan.

The city of Oakland has responded to Maxwell with encouragement. Fans cheered and clapped for him during his first plate appearance since he began his protest.

Since the Jones incident, Henry taken a more active role in trying to combat racism ingrained in the Red Sox’s history. In August, Henry expressed a desire to change the name of Yawkey Way. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate under former owner Tom Yawkey.

Over the past few months, the Red Sox have attempted to make the franchise more inclusive to fans. Thursday’s event and statement from Henry seem like solid steps in that direction.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!