David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Yawkey Way restored to Jersey Street in swift and unanimous vote

Alex Reimer
April 26, 2018 - 11:10 am

The City of Boston voted unanimously Thursday to restore Yawkey Way to Jersey Street, concluding an eight-month squabble between the Red Sox organization and proponents of keeping the street name, including the Yawkey Foundation.

Red Sox senior vice president of legal and public affairs David Friedman declined to offer additional comment before the vote. The Yawkey Foundation did not send a representative to City Hall for the brief proceedings.

On OMF Thursday, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said the organization advocated for the change so it can focus on an inclusive future.

"This was more about clarifying a vision for the future," he explained. "We’re focused on growing the game, expanding our fan base, and this was about relationships with people –– conversations with community leaders, our players, Red Sox alumni, and frankly, most importantly, our employees. We care deeply about our constituents, especially those who come to work at Fenway Park each and every day. As stewards of this franchise, we have an obligation to listen to our constituents, and especially our employees, to make sure we’re doing everything we can each and every day at Fenway to ensure it’s as welcoming and inclusive as possible. Frankly, it’s been a consistent refrain since 2002 that there are reminders and symbols of a time period when Fenway wasn't as inclusive as we want it to be."

In a statement, the Yawkey Foundation expressed disappointment about the vote. “As we have said throughout this process, the effort to expunge Tom Yawkey’s name has been based on a false narrative about his life and his historic 43-year ownership of the Red Sox,” it reads. “The drastic step of renaming the street, now officially sanctioned by the City of Boston (and contradicting the honor the City bestowed upon Tom Yawkey over 40 years ago), will unfortunately give lasting credence to that narrative and unfairly tarnish his name, despite his unparalleled record of transforming the Red Sox and Fenway Park and supporting the city he loved through his philanthropy.”

Red Sox principal owner John Henry filed a petition in February to restore the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street. "Restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all,” the petition reads. 

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. 

Walter Carrington, the former commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination who led an investigation into Yawkey’s hiring practices in the 1950s, says he doesn’t think the name change affects the Yawkey Foundation at all. 

“That’s an argument that I never understood,” he said after the session. “The Ford Foundation’s benefactor was a notorious anti-semite, a notorious fan of Adolf Hiter. Publicly, Henry Ford did this. That has not tainted the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation did not go out trying to have a campaign to sanitize the name. You look at the Rockefeller Foundatino, the Carnegie Foundation. Their benefactors were robber barons if you look at their past. That has nothing to do with the foundation. The Yawkey Foundation is doing good work, and they will continue to do it. I don’t see how in the world this would affect the way they operate.” 

This post has been updated. 

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