BOSTON (CBS) – Boston’s five major pro sports teams are uniting to fight racism and hate speech.
The Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Revolution launched the “Take the Lead” project Thursday morning at Fenway Park.
During a panel discussion on race, alumni and executives from each team spoke about their experiences in the city.
Andre Tippett, who played 11 seasons for the Patriots, spoke about the decision for about 20 Patriots players to take a knee during the National Anthem on Sunday while the rest of the team locked arms.
“The way we do things around there in the organization, it looked a little out of character. But when I really thought about what was going on, we live in a democratic society. Free speech, free religion,” Tippett said. “As long as you’re not hurting anyone we are free to practice and do anything we want. The fact that we did do it as a team, locked arms, took a knee, as cliché as it sounds, we were doing it as a patriotic community. I was proud to see the players do it.”
Cedric Maxwell, former Celtics player, reacted strongly to President Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players who opted to kneel for the anthem.
“Sports can be a barrier that can overcome racism,” said Maxwell. “And that’s why I am so appalled right now with what our president has done and just saying how sports in general, trying to divide us, in something that has really, really been good.”
Maxwell said that while “racism is alive and well,” he has seen the City of Boston come a long way since he first joined the Celtics.
“I’ve seen a great change in the way people are viewed, I’ve seen a great change in the way people respect each other,” Maxwell said.
The panel discussion was moderated by WBZ-TV sports director Steve Burton.
Mayor Marty Walsh gave remarks at the beginning of the Fenway Park event.
“The power of sports is bringing a lot of conversation to the United States of America right now,” Walsh said.
“The conversation isn’t just about an incident that happened at Fenway Park, it’s about what’s happening in our city every single day.”
A new public service announcement video opposing racism, hate, inequality, and discrimination was also seen for the first time. It features players from all five teams and will be shown at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and the TD Garden.
Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy spoke about a May incident at Fenway Park. Orioles outfielder Adam Jones told reporters after the game that a fan had yelled racial slurs at him from the stands.
Kennedy spoke about the Red Sox ownership group’s commitment to tackling the franchise’s history with racism head on.
“We’ve tried hard for 15 years to ensure that Fenway Park is open, welcoming to everybody. But when you go to work on May 1 and Adam Jones has the n-word hurled at him, boy that hurts. That really hurts. And to sit here and listen to Tommy Harper tell his story, that really hurts,” Kennedy said. “So to have the support of an organization that believes in addressing these issues head on, we knew we needed to sit down with Adam immediate and apologize to him for the indignity that he suffered in center field at Fenway Park.”
Harper said during the panel discussion that then-Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey fired him as a coach after he openly discussed acts of racism in the organization.
Walsh said during his opening remarks that fighting racism in Boston is “a matter of pride.”
Former WBZ-TV news anchor Liz Walker, now the pastor of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church, emceed the event.
“If a baseball player who’s my hero is talking about this, then maybe I’ll listen more than I would, if just an ordinary preacher or that person in the community is talking about it,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.