Red Sox launch 'Take the Lead' initiative

Club shows first PSA at Fenway Park denouncing racism, hate, discrimination

Red Sox launch 'Take the Lead' initiative

BOSTON -- The Red Sox, in conjunction with four other Boston-area pro sports teams, launched a new initiative at Fenway Park on Thursday aimed at eradicating racism and hate speech from stadiums and communities and encouraging fans to do the same.

The program, titled "Take The Lead," featured a panel discussion about race with alumni and executives from the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Revolution.

The first "Take The Lead" PSA was shown at Thursday's Red Sox game against the Astros, with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia representing the Red Sox contingent, along with 10 other athletes. The spot denounces racism, hate and discrimination.

The message is over a minute long with a compilation of different players saying the following:

"We are so fortunate to play in a city where banners are hung, flags are raised and fans' voices are heard in every corner. But it's time to step up when a line gets crossed and make sure where we play is welcoming to us all. We need to take responsibility when the words we hear cause pain and anger that seems to just grow and grow.

"It starts here in our house. If you hear something wrong, offensive or hateful, speak up, say something, stand for our teams, but don't stand for racism. We can change the game in a way that's more positive, more inclusive, more empowering and just as loud. So I'm taking the lead, you can, too, in the fight against discrimination, inequality, injustice and racism. Because if we all take the lead together, hate falls behind."

'Take the Lead' initiative

Betts was grateful to have the opportunity to take part in the message the Boston sports teams are sending.

"There's a lot of things that go on and we want everybody to be treated equally," said Betts. "We just want for it to be a fun environment, and I think it's important for people who come to Fenway for the first time for everybody to be treated fairly and see it as a great place."

It is a message the Red Sox want to send from all levels of the organization.

"We need to make sure that everyone in Boston, everyone in New England, knows this is a facility and a venue for everyone," said Red Sox president Sam Kennedy. "We need to treat people with respect when they come here, the same way they're treated at The Garden or out at Gillette Stadium, and we've worked really hard in our 16 years to do that and we'll continue to do that."

On Thursday, the Red Sox took a significant step to create a better environment for all fans.

"Today, joined by the other professional sports teams who call Boston and New England home, the Boston Red Sox call for united opposition to racism and hate in all other forms," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "We, like many Americans, made the mistake of thinking that our region's and country's less-than-stellar pasts were firmly behind us, that 21st century America was becoming a more inclusive nation committed to celebrating diversity. That is not the case."

Boston sports on anti-racism

Thursday's panel discussions included insights on race in sports from Red Sox Hall of Famer Tommy Harper, Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, former Celtic and current broadcaster Cedric Maxwell and former Bruins forward Don Sweeney.

Executives from the five teams provided their perspective, including Kennedy, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, Celtics director of community engagement David Hoffman, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft and Revolution president Brian Bilello.

Thursday's event was led by Reverend Liz Walker of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church, and it also included remarks from Boston mayor Marty Walsh, state senator Linda Dorcena Forry and NAACP Boston chapter president Tanisha Sullivan.

"Take The Lead" also offers a fellowship opportunity and a career fair in addition to focusing on fan behavior at stadiums.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.