Hostile Racial Environment At Fenway

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Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

With the Reds playing so well (all alone in first to start the day) it’s easy to be paying attention to baseball. Consequently, I read about what happened last Tuesday at Fenway Park where I otherwise might not have. Many are aware that on Monday night, fans at Fenway Park shouted racist slurs at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones during the game and one fan hurled a bag of peanuts at him. The reaction was swift. The owner of the Red Sox personally apologized. The Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts condemned the conduct. An investigation was launched. Boston NAACP President said it is concerning that someone would think they could go to a crowded stadium, use that type of racially charged language, and suffer no consequences. Then the next day fans gave Jones a standing ovation before his first plate appearance.
But it happened again Tuesday night (the night Jones would receive a standing ovation) right after the singing of the national anthem. According to Calvin Hennick, a white Boston Rex Sox fan who was attending the game with his 6 year old son, who is African-American, and his Haitian father-in-law, a “middle-aged white fan” complained aloud that the Kenyon woman who sang the national anthem made it “too long, and she n****** it up.” Hennick was concerned, particularly for his son who was attending his first game. When Hennick turned and asked the man if he really just said that, the man repeated the slur and said “that’s right, and I stand by it.” Hennick reported the incident to an usher and the man was eventually kicked out. Hennick was surprised the man would make these comments to him of all people as he was sitting next to his African-American family. Hennick said, “then I realized that that was the whole point. He wanted to prove that he could say whatever he wanted. It was a finger to the eye.”
There are a lot of parallels between what happened at Fenway Park and what ought to happen at the workplace when conduct like this occurs – bad conduct, bad conduct reported, bad conduct investigated, consequences for the offender. Just a couple of weeks ago the United States District Court for the Second Circuit held that, in the employment context, a single racial slur might provide sufficient basis for a hostile work environment claim under the right circumstances. It seems a no brainer that asking a 6 year old African-American kid who was attending his first ever baseball game to sit next to an adult using the N word and then “standing by it” would have a significant negative impact on that kid.

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