After Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said that he was "called the n-word" by Red Sox fans in a game Monday at Fenway Park, team and city officials in Boston released statements of contrition and concern, while others were prompted to note the long history of racist treatment of black athletes there. The Red Sox took action to back up their words Wednesday, permanently banning a fan accused by another fan of using a racial epithet during Tuesday's Os-Red Sox game.
However, some questioned Jones's account, including national NFL reporter and Boston native Albert Breer, who asked for proof to back up the player's assertion. "I've probably been to 200 games at Fenway in my life. Never heard a slur yelled at a player," Breer said on Twitter.
Then there was Curt Schilling, who said Thursday that Jones was "lying" about the treatment he received. "If somebody did say, we're going to see it and hear about it, and I would apologize to Adam Jones for doubting him, but until then, I think this is bulls--," Schilling said on his Breitbart radio show (via the New York Daily News).
"I think this is somebody creating a situation."
Schilling spent the final four seasons of his 20-year MLB career pitching for the Red Sox, then became a baseball analyst for ESPN. He was fired by the network in April 2016 for "unacceptable" conduct, after several incidents in which he made politically charged comments or shared memes online that many found socially intolerant.
On Wednesday, Schilling retweeted an article from a Boston-area sports website that was critical of a Sports on Earth story by Mike Lupica, in which the veteran sportswriter quoted a high school senior who said he had been in the stands at Fenway, "15 or 20 rows behind the guy who eventually called Jones the n-word and got himself ejected."
"Early on, people were laughing that he was throwing peanuts at Jones. But towards the end, I realized most people were just giving dirty looks," the witness, Niko Poulakidas, told Lupica. "The n-word was the turning point for sure. Once that was said, everything turned serious."
The website Turtleboy Sports then published comments it said were from "a peanut vendor in the bleachers at Fenway, who was working in the exact same section where Adam Jones alleges the racial slurs came from." The vendor's comments refuted the claims of Poulakidas, and Schilling's retweet included his caption: "So who is lying?
Schilling answered his own question in a follow-up retweet of another Turtleboy article which called Poulakidas "a lying s--bag." After asking who was lying, Schilling's retweet said, "This kid is for sure. Idiot."
In an answer to a question from another Twitter user about whether he had ever heard the n-word used "at a ballgame," Schilling replied, "Not once, EVER. Heard it in a clubhouse on the rarest of occasions, but never once did I hear it on the field directed at anyone."
A six-time all-star and three-time World Series winner, including twice with the Red Sox, Schilling maintains a very active social media presence, often providing a conservative viewpoint on issues in politics, sports and society. He replied to several Twitter users who wondered why he was questioning Jones's account by linking to a 2016 USA Today article in which Jones said, "Baseball is a white man's sport."
Schilling cited that article in calling Jones a "guy who intimates the entire sport is racist," but the context for that quote was an answer the O's star provided to a reporter's query as to why black baseball players weren't emulating Colin Kaepernick's example, as several black NFL players had done, by protesting during pregame renditions of the national anthem. "We already have two strikes against us already,'' Jones said, referring to black athletes, "so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can't kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don't need us."
"I don't believe the story, given the world we live in," Schilling said Thursday on his Breitbart show (via the Daily News). "I don't believe it, for this reason: Everybody is starving and hungry to sit in front of a camera and talk and be social justice warriors. And if a fan yelled loud enough in center field for Adam Jones to hear the n-word, I guarantee you we would've heard and seen fans around on CNN on MSNBC, they would've found multiple fans to talk about what a racist piece of junk Boston is.
"Since Tuesday night, we've had one person come forward who we found out was lying about the fact that they were in the area and heard it, and other than that we've had nobody."
"We're gonna hear from somebody in the section that saw called a racist [word]," Schilling added. "If not, he's lying. And I say he's lying. If he isn't, I will apologize. I will absolutely apologize on the air and I will be sincere about it, if it happens."
Back on Twitter Thursday, Schilling posted lyrics from a pair of rap songs he said Jones had used as his walk-up music during games. Referring to the frequency of the n-word used in the lyrics, Schilling wondered aloud how someone who made those songs his walk-up music "can act offended" at someone else using the n-word.
Schilling also linked to a database of "the false reports of 'hate crimes' committed in the USA." His point was to provide an answer to Twitter users asking why Jones would possibly invent his story, by pointing out that the Baltimore player would not be the first to do such a thing.
The Red Sox have had less difficulty in giving credence to Jones' assertion. "The Red Sox want to publicly apologize to Adam Jones and the entire Orioles organization for what occurred at Fenway Park Monday night," team president Sam Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday. "No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, not be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few."
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred also chimed in, saying in a statement, "The racist words and actions directed at Adam Jones at Fenway Park last night are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated at any of our ballparks. ... The behavior of these few ignorant individuals does not reflect the millions of great baseball fans who attend our games."
Jones was given an ovation by fans at Fenway Park during his first at-bat Tuesday in a show of support for the player after the treatment he had received Monday. He said he thought the way the Red Sox and MLB "got ahead" of the aftermath of the incident "was tremendous."
"I thought we'd moved past this a long time ago," Jones said before Tuesday's game. "But obviously with what's going on in the real world, things like this, people are outraged and are speaking up at an alarming rate. It's unfortunate that I had to be involved with it."