David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Yawkey Foundation responds to Yawkey Way name change: 'We are deeply disappointed'

Alex Reimer
February 28, 2018 - 5:36 pm

The Yawkey Foundation has issued a strongly worded statement in rebuttal to the Red Sox’ efforts to restore the name of Yawkey Way to Jersey Street. The team filed a petition Wednesday with the Boston Public Improvement Commission, roughly six months after principal owner John Henry publicly advocated for the name change.

"We are deeply disappointed that Red Sox and Boston Globe owner John Henry has petitioned the Public Improvement Commission to rename Yawkey Way, an action based on a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as team owner,” the Yawkey Foundation’s statement reads. “Henry asserts Tom Yawkey’s name should be expunged forever from outside Fenway Park because he is “haunted” by the fact that the Red Sox were the last Major League team to integrate, in 1959. But as Henry well knows, this is far from the whole story. He need only look at the Globe’s archives to see that team under Tom Yawkey sought to acquire and promote black ballplayers throughout the 1950s.

“Henry is seeking to take the drastic action of renaming the street that has borne Yawkey’s name for more than 40 years without any apparent consideration of these facts. Worse, he fails to take into account the entirety of Tom Yawkey’s life and his generosity to the city he loved. His efforts saved the Jimmy Fund, one of Boston’s most enduring charities, and the foundations established by him and his wife, Jean, will ensure that there will be funding to help those in need of future generations. 

“Former Red Sox ballplayers and club officials who knew Tom Yawkey have stated many times that he treated every player the same, regardless of their race. He also took an interest in their families and personal lives, and always gave them the support they needed, especially during difficult times. And he fielded diverse teams during the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when many of Boston’s institutions had yet to make meaningful progress in hiring minorities. The full picture of Tom Yawkey’s life is exactly the opposite of the one that Henry has tried to paint. 

“Tom Yawkey’s name is now honored throughout Boston: dozens of organizations  –– among the beneficiaries of the more than $300 million the Yawkey Foundation have donated to charities in the city –– have proudly put the Yawkey name on buildings and facilities made possible by the grants they have received.

“Keenly aware of this unparalleled legacy of giving, Henry has praised the Foundations and said their good words should be considered apart from his call to rename Yawkey Way. But the name of the street is synonymous with the name of the Foundations. To tarnish Tom Yawkey’s name by removing it from outside Fenway Park is to tarnish it everywhere.”

Last August, Henry told the Herald’s Michael Silverman he was “haunted” by Yawkey’s racist legacy. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate under his ownership, not signing an African-American player until Pumpsie Green in 1959. Before then, the club passed up opportunities to sign Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.