Tovia Smith / NPR
Updated at 11:40 a.m. ET
The "Yawkey Way" of Boston will be renamed "Jersey Street".
The Boston Red Sox have won their bet to change the name of the two-block outdoor street Fenway Park. The owners of the teams say the change is necessary to distance themselves from a history marked by racism under former owner Tom Yawkey, known for his philanthropy, but also for his historically racist baseball club.
The Boston Public Improvement Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the name change.
The current owners of the team have said that they are still obsessed with Yawkey's legacy, and asked to change the name of the street to distance themselves from the team's past.
The Yawkey Foundations, which advocated maintaining the name, were called Thursday was a "sad day" and said the effort to change the name "was based on a false narrative about his life."
"Tom Yawkey deserved to have his name live at Fenway Park," a statement from the Yawkey Fundamentals read "We can not change today's decision, but we are hopeful that he will be remembered as the good and decent man he really was" .
The Red Sox were the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate, only that they finally hired a black player, Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green, in 1959 – 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers from Brooklyn. The headquarters of the Sox were notorious for racism, even spitting the word n, as many fans had a reputation for doing too. The ugly story made it all the more painful last summer at Fenway, when Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said a Red Sox fan spoke up, along with a bag of peanuts.
The incident sparked an apologetic fight by current Sox owners, who said they were sick because of the behavior. The team lost no time expelling the guilty fanatic, banning him for life, and reiterating that the Red Sox have zero tolerance for such intolerance. Soon after, as if to underscore their commitment to inclusion and hoping to finally get rid of their sordid past, the Red Sox began a campaign to remove the name of Yawkey from the street they call Fenway's "front door"
. ] "The undeniable and regrettable history of the Red Sox makes it difficult to continue to give importance to a symbol associated with an era marked by racial discrimination," said Red Sox lawyer David Friedman, at the start of a hearing before the Commission. of Public Improvement of Boston. The panel, accustomed to much more moderate audiences on street signs and utility poles, received a room full of details about Yawkey Way.
"It's a disgrace," said Walter Carrington, a former US ambassador who once led a state investigation into alleged discrimination by the Red Sox organization. Calling Yawkey Way "Confederate statue of Massachusetts," he said, "every time I, or any black, enter Fenway Park, it's an insult."
In 1959, when Carrington was head of the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Commission, he says that the Red Sox organization was plagued by biases in hiring players and staff. Carrington's investigation included interviews with Red Sox players, and with Jackie Robinson, who had been ignored by the Red Sox after a test that was believed to be a sham.
In the end, Carrington came out in agreement with Robinson.  "[Robinson] told me then, as he said publicly, that he believed that Tom Yawkey was the biggest fan of professional baseball," recalled Carrington.
But the bet to erase the name of Yawkey has also mobilized his fans, like former Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg. He says that Yawkey eventually came up to fully embrace the team's black players.
"I understand that many things happened early in the story, but personally I saw a change in Mr. Yawkey … when I think he became a better man," Lonborg said, his voice cracking with emotion. "And we were all … better people because he was in our clubhouse."
Yawkey's defense included a long list of Bostonians who have been beneficiaries of all the charity that Yawkey and his late wife Jean have received through their foundation, Yawkey Way 2. The foundation has invested some $ 300 million in Boston Organizations: from The Boys and Girls Clubs to hospitals, Jimmy Fund for cancer research and care, food banks, universities, Urban League, museums, youth programs and more.
"The Yawkey family and foundation have helped generations of the less fortunate of this city," said Boston businessman and philanthropist Jack Connors. He implored the commission to keep Yawkey Way, saying that changing it would unfairly blur the name of the Yawkeys, and complicate the good work of the foundation.
He also warned the commission not to go down a dangerously slippery slope.
Did it happen to common sense? he protested. "If we talk about street signs, who's going to talk about Washington Street, Jefferson Way or Madison Place?"
The vision is shared by other prominent leaders, including some from the African-American community in Boston.  "It's a very slippery slope and ultimately a very divisive slope," says the Rev. Ray Hammond, pastor of the historically black Bethel AME Church in Boston, and an administrator of the Yawkey Foundations.
The name of Yawkey Way does not look like the Confederate Memories that deserve to be abandoned, he says. The "sins" of Yawkey do not compare, he says, and should be considered in the context of the time, his personal growth and generosity. And he says: one must allow his redemption.
"Let's understand that all heroes probably have feet of clay, and let's be honest about those feet of clay, and learn from those feet of clay," he says. And maybe we'll even give him a little humility, because when our children evaluate us, they'll also find feet of clay. "
But others are less lenient.
" Redemption begins when someone says, "I'm sorry," says the State Rep. Byron Rushing, and Yawkey never publicly apologized for the sins of his baseball club. Therefore, Rushing says that no amount of charity after his death can absolve him.
"That's not" Do not do it, "says Rushing." This is not a discussion about the Yawkey Foundation. We're talking about the person, not the base. "
That's why some have suggested a commitment to change the name from" Yawkey Way "to" Yawkey Foundation Way. "
Outside Fenway fans mingle in question
"Ahhh, that's difficult," sighs William Celeste, a 53-year-old construction worker. "You can go both ways, because everyone in the world is going to do something wrong, so there's no tal What someone does all good, right? "
For retired political science professor John Carroll, Yawkey's record does not call him at all.
"He was a fanatic," says Carroll. "I certainly knew what the score was in the 50s and 60s. They were an open racist organization."
But others are more inclined towards compromise, including some tourists from the south. Shawn Livermore of Alabama says that "the history of whitening" would hurt more than it helps. I would prefer to see the city keep the name of Yawkey Way, but also publish a plaque nearby, which would offer a more complete version of the story, and a lesson to learn from.
"This instinctive reaction is to eliminate it," he said. He says. "But I really feel like he's begging for history to repeat itself by not making all those moments moments of teaching."
Lauren McKone agrees that the name of Yawkey Way should remain, even for nostalgia.
"It's like a tradition now," says the 25-year-old. "You get to Yawkey Way, and they give you sausages on the street before the game, I like Yawkey Way, and it would be strange if I changed Yawkey Way now."
Especially weird, he says see the street revert to his old name: Jersey Street. As many have noted, that might not be a big change for the Red Sox. The name of Jersey Street was apparently destined to honor the British island of Jersey, where – in an era long ago – the local aristocracy boosted its fortunes by buying and selling slaves.