Last summer the Red Sox ownership, along with other business owners in the neighborhood, set into motion a plan to change the name of Yawkey Way back to its original Jersey Street. The group filed a petition with the city of Boston, citing former team owner Tom Yawkey’s racist history. In statements to the media, John Henry said he was “haunted” by the former owner’s racist legacy. The Red Sox, of course, were the last team to integrate their club, with Pumpsie Green being their first African-American player in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the game. There are many stories that indicate Yawkey was a bigot, even considering the low standards set by others in his time.
The group finally had their hearing with the city, along with the Yawkey Foundation who was in opposition of the change. A final decision was made on Thursday with the board unanimously voting to change the name.
Yawkey Way renaming has been approved unanimously.— Jen McCaffrey (@jcmccaffrey) April 26, 2018
With the name Yawkey Way going away, the street will go back to its original Jersey Street. That was its name up until 1977 when it was renamed for Yawkey shortly after his death. Many have called for the street to be named after someone like David Ortiz, but city rules preclude streets to be named after living people.
The main detractors of this move argue that it will take away from from the name of a family who has done countless amounts of valuable charity work for the city over the last few decades. The name is not going away permanently, however, and the charity work can still be appreciated while acknowledging the racist legacy of the foundation’s namesake.
There is also the argument that this simple act will not erase the team’s history. This is undeniably true, and the franchise will never be able to escape the ugliness of years past. One simple move like this is never going make up for years of racist, regrettable history, and we shouldn’t pretend that it will.
That being said, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make this kind of gesture and hang on to this association with their home park. In the end, this is a welcome change and it’s been a long time coming.