The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday responded to recent comments by former major league outfielder Torii Hunter regarding racial abuse at Fenway Park, saying they were "real" and vowing to continue to improve as an organization in that area.
"Torii Hunter's experience is real. If you doubt him because you've never heard it yourself, take it from us, it happens," the Red Sox said in a statement. "Last year, there were 7 reported incidents at Fenway Park where fans used racial slurs. Those are just the ones we know about.
"And it's not only players. It happens to the dedicated Black employees who work for us on game days. Their uniforms may be different, but their voices and experiences are just as important."
The retired Hunter told ESPN's Golic and Wingo last week that racial abuse he received from fans at Fenway led him to put the Red Sox in the no-trade clauses in his contracts. "I've been called the N-word in Boston 100 times," Hunter said. "Little kids, with their parents right next to them. ... That's why I had a no-trade clause to Boston in every contract I had."
Hunter expanded on those comments on WEEI-FM's "The Greg Hill Show," saying Tuesday he heard far more racist taunts in Boston than any other city.
In their statement Wednesday, the Red Sox said they would remain committed "to using our platform to amplify the many voices who are calling out injustice."
"There are well-established consequences for fans who use racial slurs and hate speech in our venue, and we know we have more work to do," the team said. "This small group of fans does not represent who we are, but are rather a reflection of larger systemic issues that as an organization we need to address. True change starts from within, and as we identify how we can do better, please know that we are listening."
Hunter responded with a tweet:
Change starts now. Much love!🙏🏾👍🏾✊🏾✊🏻✊🏽✊🏿✊🏼 https://t.co/aoUqmUX24E— Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48) June 10, 2020
This is not the first time in recent years a notable black baseball player has spoken out about racial taunts he received in Boston. In 2017, outfielder Adam Jones, then with the Baltimore Orioles, said he heard racist comments at Fenway, and that it wasn't the first time, either.
"A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me," Jones told USA Today. "I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight. Thanks. Pretty awesome."
Jones also weighed in on social media Wednesday evening, tweeting in response to the Red Sox statement: "Huuuge."
Though the Red Sox confirmed the incident, controversy arose in the city when some local reporters and sports radio hosts questioned the veracity of Jones' claims. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy issued a statement apologizing to Jones.
"No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, nor be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park," Kennedy said at the time.
The Fenway Park crowd gave Jones a standing ovation the following night.
In recent years, the Red Sox have actively responded to issues around race with the organization's history, notably petitioning to have the name of Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park changed to Jersey Street in 2018. That was because of allegations that former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was a racist who resisted hiring black ballplayers in the 1940s and '50s.