BOSTON (CBS) — Mayor Marty Walsh says the anti-racism banner unfurled at Fenway Park during Wednesday night’s Red Sox-A’s game may have intended to carry a good message–but it was the wrong time and place for it.
The sign was draped over the middle of the Green Monster during the fourth inning, and featured a black background with white letters that read “Racism is as American as baseball.”
“What it sounds like is, it was in support of Black Lives Matter, which is against racism,” Walsh said. “In a way, you can say it’s a positive message–I think the wrong place to put it, because you can’t bring something in Fenway Park, they don’t let you do that–but they did it, not much more we can say about it.”
The banner was up for about 60 seconds before it and its handlers were removed by Red Sox security.
Several people claiming responsibility for the banner told WBZ-TV they are a loosely organized group of five with ties to local social justice organizations. They prefer to remain anonymous and let their message stand.
In a statement they told WBZ-TV, “We want to remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism.”
They produced a standing room only ticket they purchased a few months ago, and a time-stamped photo with a picture of the banner. The group said they were able to get the banner into the park by folding it up, placing it in a bag, and then not attracting a lot of attention as they went through security.
Another group calling itself Boston Antifa also took credit for the incident, and said it was inspired by article by an ESPN writer.
That group says they’re against racism, but others said the message was unclear.
Fenway fan Will Richardson said the banner might create more division.
“All lives matter as far as I’m concerned and for that it’s another way to politically divide all of us,” Richardson said.
Many on Twitter began questioning the meaning, as well as the purpose of Fenway as the backdrop.
The Red Sox released a statement saying, “During the 4th inning of tonight’s game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left field wall in violation of the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark. The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park.”
“I think any time that there’s a banner that is lofted over The Monster, it catches your attention,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said during a Thursday morning press conference. “But in terms of the messaging and what was felt, I don’t know that we know the group that might have been behind it. Certainly they have the right to express their opinions, and I know that we have a policy that you can’t affix a banner from anywhere in the ballpark.”
The issue of racism at Fenway has been widely discussed over the summer. It was just a few months ago that Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he was called the N-word by a Red Sox fan.
There’s also debate over changing the name of Yawkey Way, the street which borders one side of the park.
Its named after longtime Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who had the reputation of being racist for not allowing African-Americans on the team.
Walsh said this banner and past instances of racism were incomparable.
“You can’t compare that to what’s happened with Adam Jones,” he said.
Farrell said there was no place for racism at the ballpark.
“All I can speak from is my own experiences,” Farrell said, addressing accusations of racism at the park. “We have the benefit of working in such a multicultural, multiethnic group, it’s reflected in our clubhouse and there’s so many good things that come from that. But it’s unfortunate that you see examples of it.”
As for the latest incident with the banner, Farrell said he didn’t believe there was any knee-jerk reaction to it, and said the team remained focused on the game.
“The game is the event, not a setting in which banners are going to be erected,” he said.
It is up to the Red Sox organization whether or not to press charges against the protesters.