NU researcher says Boston sports' race problem worse since 2016 election

BOSTON — An Orioles player’s claims of racist remarks at Fenway Park Monday night are renewing an old debate.

We know Boston has a checkered past when it comes to race and sports, but an expert who has tracked the issue for decades says Major League Baseball needs to step it up.

O’s center fielder Adam Jones addressed the media Tuesday after his claim someone hurled racial slurs at him from the stands Tuesday night. Then, Yankees’ pitcher C.C. Sabathia told a New York reporter black baseball players expect racism in Boston.

“How do you break down the institutionalized racism that has existed for 200 years in our country and really needs to be called what it is. It's terrorism,” Dan Lebowitz said in an interview with Boston 25 News.

Lebowitz is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University.

They've been working for 30 years to track trends and develop diversity and inclusion programs for sports organizations.

Lebowitz told Boston 25 racist fan culture has always been an issue in Boston and has gotten worse since the presidential election.

"With things going on in the real world, things like this people are outraged and speaking up at an alarming rate. It's unfortunate that I had to be involved with it," Jones said Tuesday before the game. "You hear it. It's just unfortunate that someone would try to bring you down like that."

Lebowitz's recommendation is the more diverse major league sports become, the more training needs to be done.

“Diversity without inclusion means nothing,” Lebowitz said. “So our work is really based on how do we get to real inclusion?"

In 2012, a Leominster Police Officer was fired after calling Sox outfielder Carl Crawford a racial slur.

That same year, Boston Bruins fans were accused of calling Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward the n-word in a play-off game.

Earlier this year, David Price told reporters he was the target of racial slurs all last season.

Lebowitz says it's time major sports organizations lead by example in condemning this behavior.

“I think this is a time where we have to understand the difference between pro-activity and being reactive. And I think here's the chance for not only the Red Sox, but the Bruins and the Celtics to take this mantle as leaders of this conversations,” he said.

Sports in Society has worked with Major League Baseball, The MIAA and the NFL Players’ Association, the organization says further training in issues around race in the big leagues is needed.