Yawkey foundation 'disheartened' by efforts to rename street

ByABC News
August 18, 2017, 7:42 PM

— -- BOSTON -- A foundation set up by the former owners of the Boston Red Sox says it is "disheartened" that its namesake has become embroiled in the national controversy over racially divisive monuments.

The Yawkey Foundations said Friday in a statement that Jean and Tom Yawkey's philanthropy was "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," the statement read. "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."

John Henry, who purchased the baseball franchise from the Yawkey Trust in 2002, told the Boston Herald that he wants the city to rename Yawkey Way in front of Fenway Park because he's "haunted" by the racist legacy of Tom Yawkey.

"I guess the only thing I can say about it is, [I] fully support what John Henry and our ownership group is trying to do," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Friday night's game. "This is well beyond our day-to-day at field level. But there have been so many efforts to pay attention to our social needs in our community, in the city of Boston, our ownership does a great job of trying to create an atmosphere of inclusion. And take very intangible and active steps to do that.

"I can't speak for what Tom Yawkey was about. I'm well aware of the philanthropy that he and his family and his foundation have given to many area hospitals, many area organizations. So he was a very positive person in that regard. But as far as the downside, or maybe the side that's not perceived as positively, I don't know what that entailed or what that was involved with. But there's a history there of it. And I think that's where John Henry and our ownership group is trying to do what they feel is right and support what their decisions are in terms of being that positive bridge in our community. When you look at what our foundation and the Red Sox have stood for under this ownership group, and what they've attempted to do, it's nothing short of extremely impressive because of all the positive effects that they have made."

Yawkey owned the team from 1933 until his death in 1976. The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to field a black player, doing so in 1959. The street was named for him in 1977.

"I don't know much about the Yawkey family," Red Sox outfielder? Mookie Betts?said Friday. "I do know that our front office, [team president] Sam Kennedy and those guys, do a great job making Fenway a place where everybody's welcome. So I support everything they do at this point."

In an interview Thursday with Comcast SportsNet, Kennedy said the topic has been on his mind for a long time.

"We've been discussing this for over a decade internally, the conversation has come up time and time," Kennedy told CSN. "I think today what John did was send a very loud message about what he's been saying since we arrived in 2002, which is we want Fenway to be open and inclusive and tolerant to everyone, and so it's just a conversation we've been having for a while."

Information from ESPN's Scott Lauber and The Associated Press was used in this report.