Fans removed from Fenway Park after lowering 'Racism is as American as baseball' sign

BOSTON -- Four fans seated above the Green Monster at Fenway Park dropped down a sign that read "Racism is as American as baseball" during the fourth inning of the Red Sox's game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.

The sign was draped over the top middle section of the Green Monster and had a black background with white letters.

It was up for about one batter. There were a smattering of boos from the crowd as Red Sox security forced those holding the sign to remove it and escorted the people from their seats. Umpire Joe West and police were seen on the field discussing what happened.

"During the fourth inning of tonight's game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left-field wall in violation of the club's policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark," a Red Sox spokesperson said. "The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park."

One of those ejected, who confirmed their identity to CSN New England with a photo of the banner from a unique vantage as it was being unfurled, said the protest was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Boston Globe reported no arrests were made in connection with the incident. Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy told the newspaper: "Clearly they wanted to make a statement."

The Red Sox lost the game 7-3. Afterward, what happened in that fourth inning was a topic in the home clubhouse.

"There's no place for that," outfielder Mookie Betts said. "That's for another day, though."

Added manager John Farrell: "Saw it was draped over the Monster. From the dugout, you see someone expressing their opinion and it looked like it was withdrawn relatively quick.''

The ejected individual who spoke to CSN New England in a phone interview was surprised there was confusion as to the exact message being sent, as some thought the banner was promoting racism.

"I guess we should have seen that coming, but we also didn't think of it as an ambiguous message," the group member told CSN New England. "It's kind of telling that it is being interpreted as one."

The group member denied any affiliation with Antifa or Antifa Boston, which earlier took credit for the incident via Twitter.

"We want to remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism," said a statement from the ejected group that was later emailed to CSN. "White people need to wake up to this reality before white supremacy can truly be dismantled. We urge anyone who is interested in learning more or taking action to contact their local racial justice organization."

It's not the first time racism and Fenway Park have been linked this season.

In May, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said he was subjected to a torrent of N-words and other racist taunts at Fenway during the team's game against the Red Sox. The Red Sox later apologized to Jones, and the team toughened its fan code of conduct to stress a zero-tolerance policy and impose the harshest possible penalties for violators.

A night later, the Red Sox permanently banned a man from Fenway whom they said used a racial slur toward another fan.

"The banner came in response to the racist comments at the beginning of the season at Fenway [that Jones spoke of]," the ejected individual todl CSN New England. "But overall, we saw, we see Boston continually priding itself as a kind of liberal, not racist city, and are reminded also constantly that it's actually an extremely segregated city. It has been for a long time, and that no white people can avoid the history of racism, essentially.

"So we did this banner as a gesture towards that, to have a conversation about that."

In August, Red Sox owner John Henry told the Boston Herald that the organization will lead the way in attempts to change the name Yawkey Way. The street adjacent to Fenway is named after Tom Yawkey, who owned the team from 1933 to 1976 and refused to integrate it until 1959.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.