Last night, fans were ejected from a Baltimore Orioles game after yelling slurs at centerfielder Adam Jones. But that’s not enough to eradicate racism.
Athletes and sports fans both understand that players are not going to be welcomed with open arms in opposing stadiums. Boos, taunts and efforts to distract them are expected and part of the game. It is not, however, part of the game to call a player the “n-word” or to throw peanuts at him. That’s what Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones experienced last night in Boston.
“Very unfortunate,” Jones said afterwards. “I heard there was 59 or 60 ejections tonight in the ballpark. It is what it is, right? I just go out and play baseball. It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being. I’m trying to make a living for myself and for my family.”
To yell racial slurs at a player (or anyone) is outrageous and wrong. But what about the people (plural) who felt comfortable SHOUTING the N-word at a player while surrounded by patrons? What kind of comfort level do these people have with outright racism? Yes, these fans were removed from the stadium, but the culture of the audience seems to allow this behavior.
And it’s not the first time.
In last year’s playoffs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, a fan threw a beer at Orioles’ Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim. After the incident, fans could be heard yelling racial slurs and both Kim and Jones, who had come over to help his teammate and attempt to point out the fan. He wasn’t immediately caught, but security-camera footage helped the team eventually track down the 41-year-old white male.
And baseball players certainly are not the only athletes subject to this treatment. It’s often at its worst in European soccer leagues, where almost every black player can tell a story of having racial slurs barked at them, being spit on, having bananas thrown at them or supporters singing racist songs at players and fans.
Critics are often quick to blame alcohol. But plenty of people drink and, if you’re not a racist, alcohol doesn’t make you one. While drinking at sporting events is its own problem, diffusing this situation by calling someone a drunk turns away from the real issue at hand: racism.
These fans were removed from the game, but that is not enough. The home teams can patrol this only so much. As a society, we need to all be clear that this behavior is not acceptable, and hold one another accountable. We are a long way away from eradicating racism, but it will only get worse if people are just permitted to act this way.