Home / Sports / Boston changes "Yawkey Way" to "Jersey Street" after concerns over racist legacy: NPR

Boston changes "Yawkey Way" to "Jersey Street" after concerns over racist legacy: NPR

Yawkey Way, outside Fenway Park, was named after the late former owner of the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey, known for his philanthropy, but also for a racist ball club.

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Yawkey Way, outside Fenway Park, was named after the late former owner of the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey, known for his philanthropy, but also for a racist ball club.

Tovia Smith / NPR

Updated at 11:40 ET

Boston's "Yawkey Way" is renamed "Jersey Street."

The Boston Red Sox have won their request to change the name of the tiny, two-block road to Fenway Park. Team owners say the change is necessary to distance themselves from a story distanced by racism among the deceased former owner Tom Yawkey, who was known for his philanthropy, but also for his historically racist ball club ,

The Boston Public Improvement Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to change the name.

The current owners of the team have said that they are still being persecuted by Yawkey, and they demanded the renaming of the road from the team's checkered past.

The Yawkey Foundations, who spoke out to preserve the name, called it Thursday a "sad day" and said that the effort to change the name was "based on a false account of his life."

"Tom Yawkey deserves to keep his name alive in Fenway Park," reading a statement from Yawkey Basics. "We can not change today's decision, but we remain confident that he will be remembered as the good and decent man he really was."

The Red Sox were the very last team in the majors to incorporate and only one hired Black player, Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green, in 1959 – 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke through the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sox's front office was notorious for racism and even spit out the N word, as many fans should. The ugly story made it all the more painful at Fenway last summer when Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said that a Sox fan hurled the N word along with a bag of peanuts.

The incident sparked an apologetic dispute from current Sox owners who said they were disgusted by the behavior. The team did not waste any time in expelling the guilty fan, banning him all his life and reiterating that the Sox have no tolerance for such intolerance. Soon after, the Sox, as if to underline their commitment to inclusion, hoped to finally get rid of their dirty past, launched a campaign to cancel Yawky's name from the street they call Fenway.

"The indisputable and regrettable story of the Red Sox makes it difficult to continue to symbolize an era characterized by racial discrimination," said David Friedman of Red Sox at the beginning of a hearing at the Boston Public Improvement Commission. The blackboard, which was used for much muffled hearings on street signs and power pylons, got a room full and a slap over Yawkey Way.

"It's a shame," boasted Walter Carrington, a former US ambassador who once had a state investigation of alleged discrimination by the Red Sox organization. He called Yawkey Way "Massachusetts & # 39; Confederation," he said, "Every time I – or any black man – go to Fenway Park, that's an insult."

In 1959, when Carrington was head of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Red Sox organization was widely used with bias in hiring players – and staff. Carrington's investigation included interviews with Red Sox players and with Jackie Robinson, who had been passed over by the Red Sox after a test that was widely believed to have been a farce.

In the end, Carrington agreed with Robinson] [Robinson] then said to me publicly how he said Tom Yawkey was the biggest bigot in professional baseball, "Carrington recalls.

But that Quotation to erase Yawkey names has also garnered fans, such as former Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg, who says that Yawkey eventually came to fully embrace the team's black players.

"I understand that a lot happened earlier in history. But I personally saw a change in Mr. Yawkey … if I think he was a better man, "said Lonborg, his voice tingling with emotion." And we were all … better people because he was in our clubhouse . "

Retired Boston Red Sox designated thug David Ortiz, left, with team boss John Henry as he is honored to rename a lot of Yawkey Way to David Ortiz Drive in front of Fenway Park in Boston on June 22, 2017 Henry says he wants to rename the entire Yawkey Way, a street that keeps reminding the franchise's intricate racial past.

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Yawky's defense included a long line of Bostonians who were beneficiaries of all the benefits Yawkey and his late wife Jean received from their founding, Yawkey Way 2. The foundation has invested $ 300 million in the organization, from the Boys and Girls Clubs to hospitals, the Jimmy Fund for Cancer Screening and Research, food banks, colleges, the Urban League, museums, youth programs, and more.

"The Yawkey family and Foundation have helped generations of the poorest in this city," said Boston businessman and philanthropist Jack Connors. He summoned the commission to maintain Yawkey Way, saying that a change would unfairly pollute the Yawkey's name and complicate the Foundation's good work.

He also warned the Commission not to go down a dangerously slippery slope.

"Whatever has happened to common sense?" He protested. "When we talk about street signs, who's going to talk about Washington Street, or Jefferson Way or Madison Place?"

The view is shared by other prominent leaders, including some in the African-American community of Boston. [19659009] "It's a very slippery slope and ultimately a very divisive hillside," says Rev. Ray Hammond, a pastor at the historically black Bethel AME Church in Boston and a trustee of the Yawkey Foundations.

The street name Yawkey Way is nothing like the Allied Monuments worth disposing of, he says. Yawkey's "sins" do not compare, he says, and must be considered in the context of the era, his personal growth and his generosity. And he says you have to make his salvation possible.

"Let's understand that all heroes are likely to have feet of clay, and let's face those feet of clay and learn clay from those feet," he says. And maybe even add a little humility, because when our children rate us, they will also find feet of clay.

But others are less conciliatory.

"Salvation begins with someone saying, 'I'm sorry,' says State Rep. Byron Rushing, and Yawkey never apologized publicly for the sins of his ball club. So, says Rushing, no amount of charity after his death can absolve him.

"That does not do it," Rushing says, "This is not a dispute over the Yawkey Foundation, we're talking about the person, not the foundation."

Therefore, some have proposed a compromise to the name from "Yawkey Way" to "Yawkey Foundation Way".

Fans of Fenway are mixed on the issue

"Ahhh, that's hard," sighs 53-year-old construction worker William Celeste. "You can go both ways, because everyone in the world is going to do something bad, so there's no such thing as someone all good, right?"

On the side of Fenway Park is a chalkboard with Watching the Yawkey Way homage to former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey – longer than anyone else – lost the chance to hire the future Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays on the way.

David L. Ryan / Boston Globe about Getty Images

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David L. Ryan / Boston Globe on Getty Images

For retired political science professor John Carroll, Yawkey's notes do not make a close call.

"He was a stranger," says Carroll. "I knew exactly what it was like in the 50s and 60s, and they were a racist organization that stood out through and through."

But others tend to reject compromises, including tourists from the south. Shawn Livermore from Alabama says "the history of the whitewash" would hurt more than it helps. He would rather see that the city bears the street name Yawkey Way, but also affixes a commemorative plaque nearby that offers a more complete version of the story and a lesson from which to learn

"This knee pain reaction is to take it remove "says. "But I really feel that it begs that the story repeats itself by not turning all these moments into teachable moments."

Lauren McKone agrees that the name of the Yawkey Way should remain, even if it came only from nostalgia

"It's like a tradition now," says the 25-year-old. "You come to Yawkey Way, and you get sausage before the game on the street, I like Yawkey Way, and it would be weird if it changed from the Yawkey Way now."

Especially strange, she says, to see the street again to its old name: Jersey Street. As many have noticed, this may not be such a big deal for the Red Sox. The name Jersey Street was apparently meant to pay tribute to the British island of Jersey, where the local aristocracy, in a bygone era, improved their ability to buy and sell slaves.

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