ESPN’s determination to dig its own grave continues to move at high speed. On Tuesday, SportsCenter 6 co-host Michael Smith intensely overreacted to the racist actions of at most a tiny contingent fans at a Major League Baseball game at Boston’s Fenway Park, using what they did to tag every city in America as “racist.”
The previous evening, Adam Jones, an outfielder for the visiting Baltimore Orioles, was, as reported in USA Today “pelted … with a bag of peanuts,” and, quoting Jones, was “called the N-word a handful of times.”
Somewhere between 30 and 60 fans out of an official crowd of 33,489 were ejected from the game. Even assuming that all of them were sent home as a result of that ugly set of incidents, that’s at most 0.2 percent of the crowd.
That said, Jones noted that what happened Monday night was not an isolated incident:
This time, though, Jones said he felt “compelled to speak out.”
“It was just the right time,” Jones said. “It was something that was on my mind. It was frustrating for me. I’m a grown man with a family to raise, so I’m not just going to let nobody just sit there and berate me. I’m a grown man. Where I come from, you say things like that, you put the gloves on and you go after it. Obviously in the real world you can’t do that, especially in my field, so just hopefully the awareness comes, the people around in the stands will hold other fans accountable.”
The Red Sox apologized for what happened:
John Henry and team president Sam Kennedy met with the Orioles center fielder to assure him they are taking steps to prevent Monday’s incident from ever happening again.
One possible solution: Lifetime bans for racially intolerant fans.
Many of those who have attended professional sports events in many cities throughout the US in recent years have surely noticed that fan behavior has deteriorated, even though typically among a very, very few very vocal attendees.
The fact that a team like the Red Sox would consider banning certain fans for life is a sign that the team was gravely embarrassed by what happened Monday night, and perhaps an indication that professional sporting events in general need a stronger club to hold over fans who refuse to behave even remotely civilly.
The Mayor of Boston has also apologized, and the Governor of Massachusetts has issued a statement decrying what occurred.
The small amount of boorish people involved in Monday’s incidents and the outraged reactions of the team, the city’s mayor and the state’s governor did not mollify Michael Smith at ESPN’s “SC6.” Instead, Smith used Monday’s incidents to smear every city in America.
Charlie Baker the Governor, he tweeted: “A Fenway fan’s behavior last night at the Red Sox game was unacceptable and shameful.” It’s acceptable. “This is not what Massachusetts and Boston are about.” Yes it is.
Marty Walsh, the Mayor of Boston, said that “We’re better than this.” No you’re not, at least not by much.
And here’s what I mean by that. This isn’t about Boston for me. This isn’t about having lived there for most of my adult life, my wife and her family being from Boston and the Boston area.
This isn’t about Boston. This isn’t about Boston’s complicated racial history, both in the city streets and at Fenway Park. That’s not even what it’s about for me.
This is about the fact that the n-word and the throwing of peanuts, it’s an extreme, and it’s a symptom of a disease, a tip of the iceberg.
Why does it take such an extreme act of obvious racism and bigotry to get people sickened and disgusted?
You want to know why in 2017 this still happens? It’s because we don’t recognize racism when it’s in our face every day. It’s because the nuanced, subtle, beneath the surface racism that exists every day is argued and shouted down, because we’re in a “post-racial society,” because we’re past that.
But let somebody say the n-word — “Oh, this is disgusting.” But what about the people that think it every day, that act on it every day, in policy, in practice, that are saying it, maybe not to players on the field, but are saying it to other patrons at parks or when they go outside in the streets?
So, when you say that “this is not when we’re about, we’re better than this,” if you are a city in America, you are a racist city. That’s who we are as a society still. And unless until people come to grips and get comfortable with discussing every day day-to-day racism and bigotry, not just the n-word or not just throwing a banana on the field or peanuts on the field, we will still keep spinning our wheels when it comes to this conversation.
Because the other times when people like us want to point out other examples of systemic racism or white supremacy or white privilege, (they say) “Stick to sports.”
So there you have it. Every city in America is racist, and the U.S. is a land of systemic racism, white supremacy and white privilege. Also note that any “policy” or “practice” with which Smith disagrees is vulnerable to that smear. Thus he is inserting himself directly into the arena of political and partisan commentary.
From my perspective, Smith is welcome to point out and decry genuine examples of white people claiming “supremacy” over other races in sports-related news any time he wishes. Such people need to be covered, named and shamed. White privilege? Give me a break. At least for now, no area of life is as obviously merit-based and performance-based as sports.
Shortly after Smith’s rant, Fenway fans gave Adam Jones an extended standing ovation at Tuesday night’s game:
When Jones came to bat for the first time on Tuesday, initially a smattering of boos could be heard from the late-arriving crowd. However, those were quickly drowned out by a standing ovation from what Bob Costas described as a “sizeable percentage of the Fenway fans.”
Starting pitcher Chris Sale even took a moment and stepped off the mound to allow the applause to continue.
It seems a safe prediction that this action by many of the Fenway faithful won’t sway Michael Smith one little bit.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.