Major League Baseball is exploring a league-wide policy on how to deal with fans exhibiting racist behavior during games.
In the wake of remarks thrown at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones during a game in Boston this week, Major League Baseball is surveying its 30 teams about similar incidents and how they are dealt with, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday.
Manfred, at Target Field to meet with Twins officials and players as part of his duties, said the survey “could be a prelude to more industry-wide guidelines in this area.”
Twins president Dave St. Peter said survey results likely will be shared during owners meetings May 17-18 in New York City. “We expect it could come with a series of recommendations and suggestions from the league office,” he said.
Jones, the Orioles center fielder, said a fan used the N-word while berating him during Monday night’s game at Fenway Park. On Thursday, the Red Sox banned the fan from Fenway for life after he acknowledged the abuse.
Since Monday, Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia has told reporters he has received similar abuse at Fenway, and Twins special assistant Torii Hunter told MLB Online Radio that he often heard the N-word in visiting parks when he played for the Twins, Anaheim Angels and Detroit Tigers from 1999-2016.
‘In the outfield, I was always called the N-word,’ Torii Hunter says
St. Peter said he couldn’t recall a fan being ejected, or banned from, the Metrodome or Target Field for racist behavior. “We have banned a fan or two in the past, but not for racial slurs; more for disruptive behavior, physical contact with staff, things of that nature,” he said.
Most notably, some Twins fans celebrated Dollar Dog Night on May 2, 2001, by throwing them — among other projectiles — at former Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who was playing left field for the Yankees. Twins manager Tom Kelly had to trot to the outfield to get fans to stop.
“Any time you’re dealing with human beings, there’s always the potential for behavior that is less than optimal,” St. Peter said. “I do think, historically, we’ve been fortunate to have fans that have gone about it the right way. We don’t have any history with these types of specific allegations, particularly around race.
“We have had some issues at times with fans throwing things on the field, and things of that nature. Nobody’s perfect.”
Local police told the Boston Herald on Friday they have talked to Jones and are working on two separate incidents of racist taunts at Fenway, one directed at another fan, another made against a woman who sang the National Anthem this week.
It’s unwelcome news for any professional sports league but particularly for MLB, which has been trying to increase participation and interest among African-Americans for more than a decade. Seventy-five years after Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in the majors, there are only 62 black Americans on major league rosters.
In the 2017 MLB report card by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in sports, director Richard Lapchick notes that while men of color represent 42.5 percent of rosters, an all-time high, only 7.7 percent of Opening Day rosters were composed of black Americans or Canadians.
In 1991, they composed 18 percent of all major-leaguers.
Byron Buxton is the only African-American playing for the Twins, one of eight teams with only one black American. Two teams — the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres — have none. To help boost those numbers, MLB has launched initiatives such as Urban Youth Academies, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and other elite development camps. Over the past five years, 20.2 percent of first-round picks in the first-year player draft have been African-American.
“We’re making progress,” Manfred said.
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