Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale, standing on the mound, stepped off, allowing the cheering to grow to a crescendo, which turned into a standing ovation.
The Red Sox crowd, embarrassed by the actions of a few Monday night that yelled racial slurs at Jones, with some later throwing a bag of peanuts at him, let Jones know that a few fools’ actions certainly don’t reflect everyone.
“It was much appreciated,’’ Jones said after the Red Sox’s 5-2 victory. “Being on the road, I’ve never got any ovations or anything like that. So it just caught me off-guard a little bit. I was like, 'Oh, OK, this is something different.'’’
The Red Sox players, led by right fielder Mookie Betts and starter David Price, campaigned throughout the day for the crowd to cheer for Jones, standing up for racism. Jones balked at the notion, saying he simply wanted to be treated like any other opposing player, but the crowd responded.
“I thought it was great by our fans,’’ Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “The remarks of one or two should not taint what our fan base is, it’s knowledgeable, and it goes beyond the stat line for an individual player. I’m sure many people in this ballpark know about Adam Jones’s contributions off the field, the type of person he is, and certainly the player, and the way he goes about his game on the field.
“I think it was a great acknowledgment for who he is as a person.’’
Jones was visibly moved by the gesture, and the reactions throughout baseball after telling USA TODAY Sports about the racial incidents late Monday night.
“It’s pretty awesome,’’ Jones said, “these kinds of things are bigger than the game. This is a game. This isn’t life and death. There’s bigger issues in the world than a baseball game.’’
Most important of all, Jones’ comments Monday evening to USA TODAY Sports had the baseball world talking, with everyone from Yankees veteran CC Sabathia telling reporters that Fenway Park is the only ballpark he hears racial epithets, to Red Sox players telling their management that they’ve been verbally abused with racial slurs by their own fans.
“Everything is always about a conversation,’’ Jones said. “If you can bring an awareness to the situation, and enlighten the situation …Two of their best players are African-Americans.
“Me, I get to leave here and go to another place. I come here 9, 10 times a year. They play 81 times a year at this place. They’re the ones who have to endure this type of thing and understand that kind of behavior is around them.’’
It was Jones’ comments that triggered the Red Sox to action, with owner John Henry and president Sam Kennedy talking to their players, beefing up stadium security, and threatening to permanently revoke fans’ ticket rights for offensive language.
“We’ll all try to move forward together,’’ Kennedy said. “It’s a reminder of where we are in society that this type of behavior still happens around the country. It’s disappointing but we’ve got to acknowledge, take responsibility, accountability, and address. And then hopefully move forward.’’
And for a night, this was the start, beginning with the fans’ ovation, and the gesture from Sale.
“I wanted to show him the respect he deserved,’’ Sale said. “I was appreciative of that moment, and it was special to see Boston come together, and just make the right choice, do the right thing.
“We have a great fan base here and I don’t want a few idiots to mess that up. Adam’s one of the best players in the game and he’s very well respected. He’s a good guy. I know him. He’s a good person. I don’t think anybody deserves to go through anything like that.’’
Now, the healing process begins, with team management talking to their own players, hearing their concerns, and re-visiting stadium policies.
It was only one night, but already, Jones noticed a calmer atmosphere, with fans still rooting for their team, but without the need for offensive language with racist taunts.
“You heard some things,’’ Jones says, “but people knew there was some extra help out there too. I think they were a little smarter in what they wanted to say. If you can stick to baseball-related comments, that’s part of it. Once you cross that line, you’re in a different situation.’’
It was the wake-up call that was badly needed, and Jones was the one who sounded the alarm.
“In sports, you come across all walks of life,’’ Jones says. “You get to change not just my life, but I get to change other people’s lives, and outlooks on life.’’
And on Tuesday evening, in front of 32,932 at Fenway Park, it was a beautiful thing to see.
|Orioles' Adam Jones tips his helmet prior to his first at bat in the first inning. (Photo: Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports)|
Adam Jones gets apology from Red Sox, warm Fenway welcome day after racial taunts
BOSTON -- One day after Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones heard racial taunts during a game at Fenway Park, he received a standing ovation from the Red Sox crowd before his first at-bat of Tuesday night's game.
The Fenway faithful, as well as some of the Red Sox players, applauded Jones as he strode to the batter's box. Chris Sale, who started the game for Boston, stepped off the mound to allow for a longer reception.
"Much appreciated. It was also much appreciated by the Boston Red Sox and MLB getting ahead of it," Jones said. "Appreciative that action was taken, and that not everybody feels the same way as selected people."
Jones then praised the Red Sox fans.
"I appreciate what [the fans] did," he said. "I have never on the road gotten any ovations or anything like that, so it just caught me off guard a little bit."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter offered his take on Jones' reception.
"I thought it was great," he said. "I was telling somebody it would have been apropos for him to get the ovation, hit a home run, then boo him going around the bases, so we get the whole gamut. [Sale] was not going to let that happen."
Sale struck out Jones, one of the left-hander's 11 K's on the night, but was praised by Jones for the gesture.
"Sale, who works extremely fast, took his time and let [the ovation] relish a little bit, so I appreciate the sentiment," Jones said.
Jones finished 0-for-4 in a 5-2 Baltimore loss.
Earlier in the day, Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team president Sam Kennedy met with the Orioles center fielder to assure him they are taking steps to prevent Monday's incident from happening again.
One possible solution: lifetime bans for racially intolerant fans.
"We want to make sure that our fans know, and the [Boston] market knows, that offensive language, racial taunts, slurs are unacceptable," Kennedy said. "If you do it, you're going to be ejected. If you do it, you're going to be subject to having your tickets revoked for a year, maybe for life. We're going to look at that. We haven't made any firm decisions, but it just can't happen."
Jones couldn't pinpoint exactly when in Monday night's game he heard the slurs, which he said included the "N-word a handful of times." He also had a bag of peanuts thrown in his direction, although it hit a police officer instead.
According to Jones, this wasn't the first time he has been subjected to such treatment at Fenway. This time, though, Jones said he felt "compelled to speak out."
"It was just the right time," he said. "It was something that was on my mind. It was frustrating for me. I'm a grown man with a family to raise, so I'm not just going to let nobody just sit there and berate me. I'm a grown man. Where I come from, you say things like that, you put the gloves on and you go after it. Obviously in the real world, you can't do that, especially in my field; so just hopefully, the awareness comes, the people around in the stands will hold other fans accountable."
Within the baseball community, support for Jones has been strong. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and players' association chief Tony Clark released statements condemning inappropriate conduct at ballparks. Henry and Kennedy apologized to Jones. Boston mayor Marty Walsh and police chief Bill Evans took steps to increase law enforcement at Tuesday night's game, including uniformed and undercover police officers.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also took to Twitter to decry Monday's incident.
Before Tuesday's game, Showalter said he would have considered pulling his team off the field if Jones had told him during Monday's game about what happened.
"I can't sit here and profess to know how Adam feels; I've never been black," Showalter said. "I'm not going to sit here and try to act like I know. I can tell you how it makes me feel. Only thing I got on him about was he didn't let me know. I wish he would have let me know. It's not the only place that it happens.
"In our society, I am not surprised. It is unfortunate, and it is sad, and it is like a disease."
Meanwhile, Henry and Kennedy met with Red Sox players, several of whom acknowledged they have heard racial taunts at Fenway and in other ballparks, according to Kennedy.
"Has it happened to me before? Yes. It's happened to probably the majority of black players in the game -- and not just black players," said outfielder Chris Young, one of four African-American players on the Red Sox's 40-man roster. "It happens to Latin guys, as well, or anyone who's different from whatever the norm is considered to be. But it's very upsetting. It's very upsetting that it happens in environments where you're surrounded by 35,000 other people, you have kids in the stadium. This kind of stuff is passed down. Hate is taught."
Although Jones noted that racism exists everywhere, he cited "a long history of these incidents in Boston." Speaking to reporters in New York, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia said Boston is the only place he has heard the N-word. The Red Sox were the last major league team to integrate -- 12 years after Jackie Robinson's debut. Jones mentioned the intolerance that Boston Celtics great Bill Russell dealt with during his career.
Kennedy, who grew up one mile from Fenway Park, defended Boston's reputation. He said there were 34 ejections on Monday night, about twice as many as usual, but there wasn't an incident of racial taunting reported.
"I can tell you, when [the current Red Sox ownership group] arrived in 2002, I think one of the most important things with John Henry, [chairman] Tom Werner and [former president] Larry Lucchino did was acknowledge the shameful past of the Boston Red Sox," Kennedy said. "There's a reputation of maybe not being the most friendly and hospitable environment, and we've worked really hard to change that. We want to open Fenway Park to everyone. Everyone should feel comfortable at Fenway Park, no matter your race, your religion, political beliefs, sexual [orientation], you are all welcome at Fenway."
The Red Sox have a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to racial slurs, Kennedy said. But to enforce it, Kennedy said the team relies on fans reporting intolerant behavior.
"The fans can be our best allies in this because they can help us identify behavior going on around the ballpark that we may not be able to identify even just being 20 feet away," Kennedy said.
The Orioles have two more games left at Fenway this week. What kind of reception does Jones expect?
"Boo me, tell me I suck," Jones said. "Just keep the racial stuff out of it."