The “stick to sports” crowd will hate this one. During the fourth inning of the Boston Red Sox-Oakland Athletics game at Fenway Park, a black banner with the words “Racism is as American as Baseball” was affixed to the stadium’s famous Green Monster in left field. Ballpark security quickly took the banner down and escorted the perpetrators out of Fenway, but not before the image went viral.
The organizers–who are said to be white anti-racist activists–spoke with CSNNE afterwards, first denying that they were in concert with Antifa Boston–who claimed responsibility for the stunt afterwards–before explaining that they were inspired, in part, by the Black Lives Matter movement. They explained their goal in a written statement: “We want to remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism. White people need to wake up to this reality before white supremacy can truly be dismantled. We urge anyone who is interested in learning more or taking action to contact their local racial justice organization.”
Of course, because it’s 2017 and everything is a hellscape, people online took the group’s message to be pro-racism, not against it. That the idea that “racism is American, therefore it’s good” took hold on social media speaks volumes to the political climate, where white supremacists can march in Charlottesville and get the implied support of the President of the United States. The wording of the message is clearly in contrast with the conservative straw-man that America is a “free country” and where equality reigns supreme. To say that racism is as deeply embedded in American history as baseball is subverting that argument; that baseball has its own racist history is the cherry on top.
For their part, the Red Sox issued a statement that doesn’t decry the message of the banner, but rather the method with which it was unfurled: “During the 4th inning of tonight’s game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left field wall in violation of the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark. The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park.”
This incident calls back to April, when fans at the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day game unfurled an “IMPEACH TRUMP” banner, seemingly a direct reaction to the club asking Trump to throw out the first pitch–a request he denied. A less-covered banner protest actually occurred earlier in the summer at Fenway itself, as a group of anti-occupation activists dropped a banner over the very same Green Monster during Jewish Heritage Night, saying “Young Jews ❤️Red Sox Nation &a Reject Occupation.”
Fenway was also where Baltimore Orioles star Adam Jones was racially abused in May of this year, an incident that caused a social media shitstorm and one that exposed some sportswriters as being willfully ignorant of the realities of America in 2017.