In the wake of national conversations about the meaning of monuments and public symbols with racist undertones, a new conversation has started up right here in Boston.
John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, told the Boston Herald he is planning to lead the charge to change the name of Yawkey Way, the street named after former owner Tom Yawkey.
“There was a culture where the team was the last to integrate,” said Sam Kennedy, the president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox on Boston Public Radio today. “It’s undeniable.”
Yawkey made a reputation for himself after pushing the team until the last moment to integrate, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.
Kennedy said Henry and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner have “acknowledged the shameful past with respect to integration,” and continued to examine the issue until eventually deciding they wanted to change the name.
“We’ve engaged with community leaders over the past several months — employees, folks who have had an issue, and understandably so, with a symbol that may not make everyone feel comfortable coming to Fenway Park,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to examine the issues like this and in this case, our principal owner John Henry sent a bold message.”
Kennedy was careful to note that the Yawkey family and Yawkey Foundation have done “extraordinary work” over the years, despite Tom Yawkey’s racist past.
“This is not an indictment of those good works, and this is really just a recognition that fans and employees and players and everyone in New England needs to feel entirely welcome and comfortable at Fenway Park,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to work each and every day to make Fenway as open and inclusive as we possibly can.”
Sam Kennedy is the President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox. To hear his interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.