This was originally published at Put Me In, Coach by Basic Pitch on May 5, 2017.
What happened to Adam Jones Monday night is completely unacceptable, inexcusable, and all too common.
Adam Jones, center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles, is good at baseball. He is a five-time All-Star, owns four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, was instrumental in Team USA’s victory in the World Baseball Classic, and is recognized leaguewide as a leader among his teammates. He is also a five-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award and the 2015 winner of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, awards given to players who combine excellence on the field with strong community outreach work. So even beyond his accomplishments on the field, all evidence indicates that Adam Jones is an exceedingly decent human.
When considering the events that took place Monday night, none of that matters. If Adam Jones was a barely above replacement bench player who had earned a reputation for womanizing and drug use, he would not have earned the abuse he endured at Fenway Park.
Monday evening the Orioles faced the Boston Red Sox. On the way to a 5-2 victory over the Red Sox, Jones was verbally assaulted with racial slurs from the fans sitting in the outfield and had a bag of peanuts thrown at him as he returned to the dugout. Jones has been very outspoken, as he is known to be, on this, suggesting hefty fines for fans who taunt players with racial slurs. To their credit, the Red Sox, Mayor of Boston, and Governor of Massachusetts responded quickly to the incident and multiple players took to social media to defend Jones and reject the racism shown by their own fans.
While I’m sure Adam Jones appreciates the support and the apologies, it’s not enough. This problem is bigger than Adam Jones, it’s bigger than the Red Sox. If Adam Jones is hearing it in Boston, Lorenzo Cain is hearing it in Cleveland, Dexter Fowler is hearing it in Cincinnati, Andrew McCutchen is hearing it in St. Louis, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. is hearing it in New York. White supremacy is not unique to one fan base, one city or one sport. It does not adhere to the limits of geography or rooting interests, nor is it situational.
A bigot is always a bigot. Someone who can stand up and scream racial slurs at someone in the stands at a baseball game isn’t doing it because he’s drunk or because he’s passionate about his team, or because of anything about Adam Jones. He’s doing it because he’s a bigot who saw a black man. Worse, it was a black man wearing the wrong laundry. He only likes to see black people when they’re paid to entertain him, and when they’re done entertaining him they need to go away. This wasn’t a ‘mistake’. This bigot was showing us his heart.
What’s worse is the problem is us. The problem is every fan sitting within earshot of these unruly bigots in any ballpark who don’t say something, who didn’t take action to stop it. They don’t do this for many reasons, some of them fear, some of them apathy, and some of them because they agreed.
While I support ballparks removing and punishing these bigots, this problem won’t be solved with stricter rules at ballparks, it won’t be solved with legal action. This problem lives in the hearts of people and you can’t legislate what is in someone’s heart. The best we can do is what we should have always been doing. We need to stand up to oppression, we need to protect the vulnerable. We need to be louder than they are and shame them into silence. They need to know we won’t stand for their racism, their hate, their violence. Only when our voices rise above theirs and drown them out can we shut them down. Since they can’t support their bigotry with logic or compassion, they certainly don’t want to be forced to defend it. If you see something, say something. There is no excuse.