Commentary: Would you speak up against racist taunts at the ballpark?

Security watches the crowd at Fenway Park after Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was taunted by racial slurs in Boston on May 1.
(Avi Miller / Associated Press)

That’s the question, right there in the headline: Would you speak up against racist taunts at the ballpark?

Everyone was saying the right thing Tuesday, the day after Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles said he was subjected to racist slurs at Fenway Park, and even had a bag of peanuts thrown in his direction.

The Boston Red Sox said they had “zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior.” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the actions were “unacceptable and not who we are as a city.”


Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said “racist words and actions [are] … completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated at any of our ballparks.”

The words are welcome. A standing ovation for Jones at Fenway Park on Tuesday night would be thoughtful.

But then what?

No one can be ejected if team officials do not know whom to eject. The players have a game to play. The ushers cannot be everywhere.

No, the responsibility for stopping one fan from racist heckling rests with the fans sitting around him. Not by directly engaging the offending fan — he could be belligerent, drunk, or both — but by someone going out of his or her way to alert stadium security.

It’s easy to close your ears, to laugh at a clown in the stands, to ignore an idiot in the hope the rudeness will pass. That kind of bystander behavior is understandable, and historic.

Someone has to speak up. Would you?

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin