Open-Mic: Is Boston Still Racist?

Bob DuffContributor IJune 4, 2008

I have lived in Boston all my life and it doesn't seem like a racist city, but when I think about it, the city has gotten better. There must have been a reason why Barry Bonds didn't want to be on the Red Sox, because his godfather Willie Mays said that Boston is a racist place.

There also had to be a reason the Sox were the last team to get a black player. All but two of our most revered players are white: Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Phil Esposito, Carl Yastremski, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Robert Parish, and Bill Russell. Russel was talking about who he was drawn to: Malcolm X or Martin Luther King.

Russell says, "The white people in Boston liked (Martin Luther King), and so I knew something must be wrong. To me, Boston itself was a flea market of racism. It had all varieties, old and new, and in their most virulent form. The city had corrupt, city-hall-crony racists, brick-throwing, send-'em-back-to-Africa racists, and in the university areas phony radical-chic racists (long before they appeared in New York)."

I never lived when the players I just mentioned were in their prime, so I can't talk about what it was like then. Nevertheless I can talk about racism in present Boston.

Our two most popular Red Sox players are Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

The Celtics have a new big three and they are all black: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Patriots still have white players who are fan favorites like Tom Brady and Teddy Bruschi, but we also have other fan favorites that are black like Randy Moss, Rodney Harrison, and Lawrence Maroney.

The Bruins don't have any black players now, but were the first NHL team to have a black athlete, Willie O'Ree.

Boston has changed considering there are more Boston athletes with prominent roles on their team. So far, none of the Boston athletes have heard racial remarks to them.

Torii Hunter of the Los Angelas Angels, while on the Minnesota Twins, said, “My first five or six (years), I was that 'N word.' Some people would chant that out, some people would throw beer...” .

This came as a shock to Jim Rice, a former Red Sox player who played 15 years in Boston and had a different experience than Bill Russell, he replied back to Torii Hunter's comments by saying, “as for racism, I have never had an experience like that."  

I think for a situation to escalate to that level, you have to do something to incite that type of behavior. David Ortiz backed Jim Rice when he said,  “Actually, I never really heard of this type of behavior at any of the opposing ballparks that I played at. We always thought Yankee fans would be the worst but they’re just like any place else. Fans are gonna say “you suck” because you hurt their ball club.”

During the many games I have been to whether in Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and The Garden, I have never heard someone say racial remarks, neither have I made racial remarks. I don't think Boston is racist as it used to be, but from what I heard, it is pretty bad.

When reading Torii Hunter's comments, I have to think maybe we are still racist but just not to our players. I would like to think it's not that way though, I will pay more attention next time to see if anybody makes racial remarks to any opposing player. If they do I will be ashamed to be a fan of Boston sports.