The Boston Red Sox have asked the city to rename Yawkey Way to Jersey Street in an effort to distance the current owners from former owner Tom Yawkey‘s racist legacy — but the move is being opposed by the Yawkey Foundation.
The Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate, in 1959, over a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947. While Yawkey and the Red Sox were scouting Negro Leagues players in the mid-1940s (indeed, the Red Sox gave Robinson a tryout and passed on signing Willie Mays), his opposition to actually pulling the trigger on a signing and MLB roster spot in certainly a stain on the Yawkey legacy.
Hence the Red Sox ownership seeking to drop the Yawkey Way name from a Fenway Park street that’s closed before every home game so the pregame festivities, beer and entertainment can begin outside the ballpark. The street was originally named Jersey Way, and the Red Sox say all the affected businesses on the street have agreed to the change. This is not new: John Henry talked about changing the name last summer. The city’s Public Improvement Commission is set to hear the petition on March 15.
The move, interestingly, is opposed by the Yawkey Foundation, which is asking the city to reject the name change. From the Boston Herald:
“We urge the commission to consider all the facts concerning Tom Yawkey’s ownership of the Red Sox and the sweep of his life,” the foundation said.
“We are confident that if it does so, it will reject Henry’s petition.”
In August, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s office said that he was “supportive of this change.” Today, officials said Walsh would defer to the ongoing Public Improvement Commission process.
The team issued a statement saying the opposition was to Yawkey’s legacy and not to the present-day Yawkey Foundation:
“It is important to separate the unfortunate and undeniable history of the Red Sox with regards to race and integration from the incredible charitable work the Yawkey Foundation has accomplished in this millennium and over the last 16 years,” the team said in a statement. “The positive impact they have had, and continue to have, in hospitals, on education programs, and with underserved communities throughout Boston and New England, is admirable and enduring. We have the utmost respect for their mission, leadership, and the institutions they support.”
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