“I’ve been called the N-word in Boston 100 times”
In 2017, then-Orioles outfielder Adam Jones told reporters that he’d been subjected to racist abuse from fans in the stands at Boston’s Fenway Park.
“A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me,” Jones said. “I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight. Thanks. Pretty awesome.”
Jones’s allegation prompted other Black major leaguers to come forward with their experiences of racism in Boston.
Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia said that Fenway was the only ballpark where he’d been called the N-word and that the small fraternity of Black big leaguers know, “When you go to Boston, expect it.”
Torii Hunter, who had retired by then, said he wasn’t surprised to hear what Jones had gone through.
The abuse Hunter endured there led him to decide he never wanted to play for the Red Sox. David Ortiz told ESPN shortly after the Jones incident that he had approached Hunter, who was his teammate with the Twins, about joining him in Boston and Hunter refused due to the treatment from fans.
In an interview on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo on Thursday, Hunter revealed that he went as far as to ensure that every contract he ever signed included Boston in his no-trade clause.
“I’ve been called the N-word in Boston 100 times, and I said something about it,” Hunter said. “(I didn‘t speak up because people would say) ‘Oh, he’s just a militant, he’s lying, this didn’t happen.' No, it happened. All the time. From little kids. And grown-ups right next to them didn’t say anything. ... So I had a no-trade clause in everything I had not to go to Boston. Not because of all the people, not because of the teammates, not because of the front office. Because if you’re doing that and it’s allowed amongst the people, I don’t want to be there. And that’s why I had a no-trade clause to Boston. Every contract I’ve ever had. And I always wanted to play for them. It sucks.”
Wearing a home uniform wouldn’t magically cure the racism, either. Bill Russell, undoubtedly one of Boston’s greatest athletes, famously called the city “a flea market of racism” in his 1979 memoir and refused to have his jersey number retired in front of fans at the Boston Garden. Marcus Smart told The Undefeated for a story published in February about the experience of being a Black Celtic that he was called the N-word outside of TD Garden after a game when he warned a woman to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.
Hunter enjoyed a long career (19 seasons) full of individual success but never played in a World Series. Perhaps he could have if he had gone to Boston, but some things just aren’t worth it.
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