Time for MLB to declare war on fan conduct

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.
BY BUSTER OLNEY

ESPN Senior Writer

May 2, 2017

If you get into a fight at a ballpark, you will be ejected and anybody who goes to a ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers read a warning about fan conduct.

If you touch a ball in the field of play, you will be ejected. Anybody who goes to the ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers warn fans about this particular cause and effect.

If you run onto the field, you will be ejected, and will be subject to a trespassing charge. Everybody knows this, because before every game, public address announcers remind fans about what will happen.

In this way, Major League Baseball and the 30 teams could declare war on the kind of language that was directed at Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones Monday night. It’s a simple gesture that could make a big difference in protecting players and fans from this kind of garbage.

As it stands, public address announcers in ballparks reference “abusive” language in their pregame announcement: Abusive language will not be tolerated…

That warning can be much more explicit, forceful, and powerful: Any fan who aims racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay words at on-field personnel or fans will be immediately ejected and banned from (fill in the ballpark) permanently.

It is mind-boggling — appalling — that this sort of step would be necessary, but that is where we are and where we have been. Seventy years and 17 days have passed since Jackie Robinson played in his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but generations of players have reported incidents similar to what Jones talked about with USA Today and the Boston Globe after Monday’s game: The N-word and other words or phrases hurled from the stands as weapons of mass degradation.

Many players relate these episodes off the record, trying to bypass the conflict and treating the racist taunts as something to be endured. But why does anyone need to endure it within the confines of a private business establishment?

Why should Adam Jones listen to it? Why should any player, any fan have to listen to it without consequences, any more than they would tolerate some idiot running around the field for nine innings, or somebody throwing punches in the center-field bleachers?

If Major League Baseball and teams reinforce the language of the pregame warnings from the public address announcer, they can help embolden a silent majority — the tens of thousands of fans at each game who aren’t yelling racist crap at players and who can point out to security the one or two who manage to demean everybody by deploying the N-word.

The stakes will be raised, the culture shifted: If you say that stuff, security will find you with the help of 40,000 deputized fans prepared to make this the last day you are welcome at this park.

If you say that stuff, you will be ejected. And everybody will know it.