Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward was apparently greeted with far worse than standard booing upon his return to St. Louis Monday night. If true, that is shameful, but not surprising given the current climate.
Several news organizations, most prominently the New York Daily News, report that the "N" word was loudly directed at the African-American Mr. Heyward throughout the game. The outfielder left the Cardinals for the Cubs, the Cardinals' arch-rival, as a free agent over the winter.
Fans went to social media to assert they clearly heard the racist taunts over field microphones during ESPN's telecast. ESPN Tuesday denied finding any taunts beyond the usual jeering on its game tapes, but the network did suddenly switch to another game when Mr. Heyward came to bat in the sixth inning.
ESPN announcers Monday night described the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry as essentially a kinder-gentler version of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry. The latter rivalry is indeed intense but it has not been marred by alleged racial incidents. When Yankees stars Mariano Rivera, who is Hispanic, and Derek Jeter, whose father is African-American, went on their retirement tours they received prolonged ovations at Fenway Park, and retiring Red Sox star David Ortiz, who is Dominican, is likely to receive a similar response in the Bronx this summer.
With pols like Donald Trump stirring up the anger, racism and bitterness percolating in the US it is no shock that this behavior would manifest itself everywhere, including a ballpark. Shameful language cannot be rationalized away as a reaction to "political correctness" or a free speech exercise, as Trump et al would have it. Hate speech is divisive, and its use speaks volumes about our divided nation.