Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles endured a heavy dose of racial slurs and actions Monday in Boston. The bigger issue it that it’s quite the norm in baseball.
Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones repeatedly looked behind him Monday night, glaring into the Fenway Park stands, seeing if anyone would be bold enough to utter the racial slur to his face. . .crickets.
Jones correctly uttered, “Cowards. It’s pathetic.”
The 31-year-old Jones has become accustomed to such behavior from fans across Major League Baseball stadiums. But, Monday was pretty extreme, as one fan even went as far as to throw peanuts at Jones.
“Tonight was one of the worst,’’ Jones said, slowly exhaling, “it’s different. Very unfortunate. It is what it is, right. I just go out and play baseball.”
MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day just two week ago. It may as well have been decades past. There are countless blatantly racist episodes generated from the stands of professional baseball stadiums. Whether in Boston, or St. Louis Cardinals fans hurling slurs at Cubs’ outfielder Jason Heyward, or Toronto Blue Jays fans tossing beers and “n*****” around like a game of catch, racism is as American as, well, baseball and apple pie.
Baseball is almost the the last major sports safe haven for outwardly bigoted fans to spew their ignorant venom in a live-game atmosphere. Major League Baseball is made up of 63.7% white players. As opposed to the NFL and NBA, which are 70% and 74.4% black, respectively. For countless reasons, black athletes are not gravitating towards baseball. Whether it’s the pace of the game, the lack of funding / equipment / facilities in inner-cities, equally ugly moments in little league stadiums, or more, baseball has become less of a sport for every kid, and more of a red-lined sport catering to suburban youth. From a very early age, many minority children are shut out of participating in youth baseball leagues, travel ball, etc. Baseball in America has morphed into some sort of fraternity, only welcoming those who can afford its membership.
This culture breeds sense of elitism and entitlement from the participants of the sport and those that support them. That threat to such culture is lashed out upon those who dare infringe upon the sacred grounds of this, now, white-washed sport. And like most people with the audacity to voice such language in public, they rarely have the balls to do so without the natural barriers that come with being a fan at a sporting event. Especially after having a few Bud Lights.
Though there has been growth as far as the behavior of coaches, players and umpires since Jackie Robinson’s arrival in MLB, the general behavior from the stands has remained quite the same. Until the culture of the sport is addressed from the roots, the game will forever be stuck in its time-warp. Baseball is the last of the major sports to truly embrace the athleticism, flash and panache that many black athletes bring to the sport. With that, baseball suffers the indignity of stale ratings, puny crowds and boring reputation among the masses.
But, hey. I guess it’s worth it to those who love the sport. At least you get to scream “Get that n***** off the field!” when you get the hankering.