Boston Approves Plan to Rename Yawkey Way Outs

2018-04-28 10:07:37

FILE - In this June 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy addresses a gathering where a portion of Yawkey Way was renamed David Ortiz Drive, to honor the retired Red Sox designated hitter, outside Fenway Park in Boston. Red Sox principal owner John Henry says he wants to take steps to rename all of Yawkey Way, a street that has been an enduring reminder of the franchise's complicated racial past. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox will change the name of Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park after gaining approval Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The Red Sox released a statement on the decision: 

"We are pleased with the outcome of today's hearing and thank the Public Improvements Commission for the time and attention they gave to this important matter.

Today's vote is an important step in our ongoing effort to make Fenway Park a place where everyone feels welcome. We recognize we have a long way to go, but remain committed to building a spirit of diversity, inclusivity, and openness within our front office and our ballpark. We look forward to working with the business and civic leaders of Boston to continue to bring about social change in our community.

We thank our neighbors for their support, and recognize and appreciate the members of the community who took the time to voice their opinions at the hearings."

The street was named after former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey after he died in 1977, but allegations of racism against Yawkey led to questions over the appropriateness of the name.

In February, the team filed a proposal to Boston's Public Improvement Commission to change the street name with the goal to "reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all."

Yawkey's Red Sox didn't field a black player until 1959, making the organization the last in baseball to break the color line.

According to Milton J. Valencia of the Boston Globe, "[Jackie] Robinson once called Yawkey a bigot, according to [Walter] Carrington, the former investigator with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination who interviewed him at the time for a probe into the Red Sox's practices."

Red Sox owner John Henry said in an August interview with Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he wanted to see the street name changed, citing Yawkey's controversial legacy:

"The Red Sox don't control the naming or renaming of streets. But for me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multicultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can—particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully. The Red Sox Foundation and other organizations the Sox created such as Home Base have accomplished a lot over the last 15 years, but I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived."

Yawkey's supporters have argued the former Red Sox owner and his Yawkey Foundation donated millions of dollars to inner-city programs and that changing the name tainted the legacy of the former owner, who was in charge of the team from 1933-76.

But that legacy was also stained by racist undertones, which the city of Boston and the Red Sox distanced themselves from, at least to an an extent, on Thursday.

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