Local Red Sox fans react to proposed name change for Yawkey Way

By John Krinjak

Email: jkrinjak@abc6.com

Twitter: johnkrinjakABC6

PROVIDENCE, RI (WLNE) – Boston Red Sox owner John Henry says he’s haunted by Tom Yawkey’s past–a reference to the former owner’s beliefs about black ball players.

Now he’s publicly saying he wants the team to push the city to re-name Yawkey Way. 

"I think the Red Sox were the last team to integrate and the history associated with the name isn’t a good one," said Mike Galego of East Providence. 

Henry says he doesn’t want to erase former owner Tom Yawkey’s important contributions to the team and the community–a reference to the Yawkey Foundation donating well over $400 million to charities since it was founded.

But Henry wants to promote inclusiveness.

Many fans I spoke with at sports bars in Providence say it’s time. 

"I think it would be a good gesture, it doesn’t hurt anything and it gives him the opportunity to chart a new path," said Mark Tuniewicz of North Easton, Massachusetts. 

"You know how it was with the Clippers when that guy was saying I don’t want black people on my court. Now look where he is. He lost his team, he lost his place. It’s the same thing here," said Kay Johnson of Milford, Massachusetts.

"I don’t really care what he did. racism and bigotry trumps it for me," said Melissa from Providence. 

Other fans are unhappy–saying the change would be like rewriting history. 

"This name is part of history, we’ve got to keep this name that’s been there. who cares who this guy was and what he did and everything like that," said Steve McKinney. 

"It’s part of the sports culture. It’s no different than naming a franchise 60 years ago and not wanting to change everything over," said Armando Bisceglia of Providence.

Still others say their feelings are mixed.

"I think there’s a nice history to it, but I agree that with what’s going on, it might be time to start thinking about it," said Holly Guernon of North Smithfield.

I spoke to several people who strongly believe the name should stay the same, but didn’t want to go on camera for fear of being labeled a racist. 

As for what it should be changed to? One person suggested "Big Papi Way." Another said name it after Pedro Martinez. 

The Yawkey Foundation released the following statement about the matter:

"Jean and Tom Yawkey’s philanthropy has always been color blind. Their extraordinary generosity has made a significant impact on Massachusetts and the Greater Boston community, contributing more than $450 million to hundreds of non-profit organizations and helping improve the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children of all backgrounds. We are honored to have the Yawkey name on so many organizations and institutions that benefit Bostonians of all races – and disheartened by any effort to embroil the Yawkeys in today’s political controversy.”

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017