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Red Sox dogged by claims of racism, sexual abuse

by Ace Damon

NEW YORK (AP) – Last month, when former Major League star Torii Hunter, said he had been called the N word “a hundred times” at Boston’s historic Fenway Park, the Red Sox were quick to support it promise to fight racism.

“Torii Hunter’s experience is real,” the team said in a Twitter post on June 10, adding that there were at least seven incidents recently in the past year, where fans used racial slurs. The team promised to do a better job of dealing with racism: “As we identify how we can improve, know that we are listening.”

But those words sounded hollow to more than a dozen black men who have spent the past few years trying to convince the Red Sox to hear their allegations that they were sexually abused by a former Red Sox club manager who died in 2005.

Former club manager Donald “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty to criminal charges for attempting sexual assault in 2002, admitting that he used the Red Sox team’s memories to lure young black club workers to isolated areas of the club’s facilities. team spring training in Florida, where he abused them. Fitzpatrick did not admit to abusing boys at other stadiums.

Since then, an increasing number of men have come forward to claim that they too were abused by Fitzpatrick at Fenway Park and the major league stadiums in Baltimore and Kansas City, when the Red Sox was playing on the road. As their claims date back to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, they are too old to be included in civil suits, and men say their requests for out-of-court settlements have fallen on deaf ears.

Gerald Armstrong, 65, said he believed the team knew that Fitzpatrick, who had worked at the Red Sox for decades, harassed young men hired as baton boys, balls and club attendants. “You can’t tell me that you can have 30 or 40 men traveling with him and watching his behavior and not knowing what he was doing,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong said former Red Sox baseman George Scott, known as the “Boomer”, often told him to “stay away from Fitzy”. Scott died seven years ago.

“It was more of a slap in the face for me,” said Charles Crawford, 45, an African American from Taunton, Massachusetts, after hearing the latest Red Sox statement on combating racism at Fenway Park. Crawford claims that Fitzpatrick abused him in a locked storage room and in the team’s showers at Fenway Park when he was 16 in the summer of 1991.

“Now would be a good time for the Red Sox to show everyone that they want to say what they say,” said Armstrong, who says he was the first young black man to be hired at the visitors’ club by the former Kansas City Athletics – just to be allegedly abused by Fitzpatrick several times in a stadium storage room and at the historic Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City.

When contacted by the Associated Press, Daniel Goldberg, a Red Sox attorney, reissued a statement released by the team in 2017, noting that Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty to criminal charges under the team’s previous ownership.

“The Red Sox have always seen Fitzpatrick’s actions – which date back six decades ago – as obnoxious,” says the team statement. “When the team, under prior ownership, became aware of the allegations against Fitzpatrick in 1991, he was immediately released from his duties.”

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer representing 21 men who claimed to have been abused by Fitzpatrick – 15 of whom are black – has been pushing for extrajudicial deals with the Red Sox, three other teams and Major League Baseball for years, but to no avail. enjoy. Recently, after the death of George Floyd and statements about combating racism issued by the Red Sox, Major League Baseball and several teams, Garabedian tried again to open negotiations, without success.

“It is inconceivable to me that they do not want to help these victims today,” said Garabedian, known for his work representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, including those who participated in a 2002 agreement with the Archdiocese of Boston.

Forbes Magazine recently attributed the value of the Red Sox to $ 3.3 billion, the third among the league’s top 30 ball clubs. In a recent ranking of billionaires, the magazine also estimated the net worth of principal owner John Henry at $ 2.6 billion.

Today’s Red Sox, led by Henry, who also owns the Boston Globe, has worked to eliminate the team’s racist past since buying the franchise in 2002.

Under the late Tom Yawkey, the team’s former owner, the Red Sox was the last major league team to join, signing field player Elijah “Pumpsie” Green in 1959, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the barrier of colors signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. .

In addition, the Red Sox had a chance to sign with Robinson before going to the Dodgers, and they signed a contract with Hall of Fame colleague Willie Mays.

Two years ago, the Red Sox tried to break away from the team’s racist legacy when it asked the city of Boston to drop the name of Yawkey from a street that runs alongside Fenway Park. The request provoked opposition from a group of civic leaders who said the move would undermine Yawkey’s record of charitable giving. But the Red Sox prevailed and today the Yawkey Way has returned to its original name, Jersey Street.

Crawford and Armstrong, who have long accused Fitzpatrick of abuse, said the former club manager wore official team caps and baseball to lure them and others into private settings at major league ball parks and elsewhere.

Garabedian said that three of the 21 alleged victims allege that Fitzpatrick molested them after appearing in league games in Boston and near Brockton and saying he was a major league baseball scout.

“He was very active,” said Garabedian.

Garabedian is seeking $ 5 million for each of the 21 alleged victims.

But Armstrong said he is speaking largely to encourage all black men who are victims of child sexual abuse to overcome the shame or embarrassment they may feel so that they can recognize what has been done to them and get the advice they are likely to need.

“I think a lot of black men have been molested and, for cultural reasons, they just don’t speak up to deal with it,” he said. “And if you don’t deal with it, you’re looking at a lot of emotional problems.”

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