Expect A Notable Absentee When Boston Commission Votes Thursday On Red Sox Yawkey Way Name Change (UPDATED)

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/04/12/expect-a-notable-absentee-when-boston-commission-votes-thursday-on-red-sox-yawkey-way-name-change/


UPDATE: The Boston Red Sox have asked the city to postpone Thursday’s scheduled vote. The request has been granted and the voting date has been moved to April 26. This marks the second team-requested postponement. 


BOSTON — With the city’s Public Improvement Commission expected to vote Thursday on a petition initiated by the Boston Red Sox to erase the name of Yawkey Way and revert it back to its pre-1977 Jersey Street designation, one notable absence at the hearing will be the man who has been the name change proposal’s most influential backer.

Red Sox owner John Henry will not be present for Thursday’s hearing, the team confirmed Wednesday to New Boston Post.

Asked to elaborate, Zineb Curran, the team’s vice president of corporate communications, said he “does not expect anyone from ownership” being present for the hearing.

The news comes a little more than a month after the commission held its first public hearing on the matter. David Friedman, senior counsel for the team’s parent corporation, Fenway Sports Group, testified on March 15 and told the commission that while ownership “respects the charitable work of the Yawkey Foundation” — the multi-million dollar charity established after the death in 1976 of former Red Sox owner and Baseball Hall of Fame member Tom Yawkey — “the petition is an effort to work toward inclusion at Fenway Park.”

“As stewards of this franchise for the past 16 years, our ownership group has striven to ensure the ballpark is welcoming to all fans, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation,” Friedman told commissioners at the time. “We believe the name emblazoned on the front door of the ballpark and the entrance to the front office holds great importance and symbolism.

“It is our first impression to fans, guests, employees the city of Boston and the world,” Friedman said about the team’s 4 Yawkey Way address.

Friedman, however, was challenged by commission member Ed Hesford, as to the whereabouts of the ownership group.

“I would hope that for the official vote that ownership may be in attendance,” Hesford, who works for the city’s transportation department, said. “They’ve been very outspoken on this topic. I’d like to see them here if possible. As they’re the ones bringing forth this petition, I think it’s very important that ownership be at the table here giving testimony.”

Asked whether the team expects the absence of its ownership group will negatively affect its push to rename the street, Curran told New Boston Post “you would have to ask the PIC (Public Improvement Commission).” 

City streets chief Christopher P. Osgood, the chairman of the commission, as of Wednesday afternoon has yet to return a message left requesting comment but did pass along New Boston Post’s inquiry to Christopher Coakley, a city hall spokesman.

“We don’t expect anyone from Red Sox ownership to be in attendance tomorrow at the hearing, however, we do expect representation from the organization,” Coakley said in an email message.

He then disputed the importance of Hesford’s call for team ownership to participate in public hearings.

“This is how it has always worked with the Public Improvement Commission,” Coakley stated. “As long as there is a representative of the organization that filed the petition present — the commission can rule on that particular petition.”  

Yawkey’s legacy as the owner of the last Major League Baseball team to field a black player resurfaced last summer following a flurry of alleged racially-charged incidents.

In February Henry confirmed he is spearheading the petition to erase the Yawkey Way name. The team subsequently filed its petition with the commission, prompting the Yawkey Foundation to respond by ripping the petition as being driven “by a false narrative about Tom Yawkey and his record as the team’s owner.”

The March 15 hearing, which saw a former Red Sox hurler and staff ace of the 1967 American League pennant-winning team, Jim Lonborg, testify in defense of Yawkey, was continued to March 29. The commission then elected to hold off on voting until Thursday, April 12, citing the amount of public feedback the proposal was drawing.

Thursday’s meeting begins at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

WATCH March 15 hearing on Yawkey Way name change: