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Yawkey Way Name Change Is OK'd

Yawkey Way street sign on the corner of Van Ness Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Yawkey Way street sign on the corner of Van Ness Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Yawkey Way will again be Jersey Street.

Boston's Public Improvement Commission voted unanimously in favor of the name change on Thursday, removing the name of Tom Yawkey, the longtime former Red Sox owner, from the public street adjacent to Fenway Park.

The voice vote happened swiftly, and then the commission moved on to other business.

In February, the Red Sox filed a petition with the city requesting that Yawkey Way be renamed to its original Jersey Street.

The current Sox owner, John Henry, reportedly has said he's "haunted" by what he called the team's racist past. Yawkey owned the team for decades, and the Sox were the last team to hire an African-American player. Yawkey is rumored to have screamed a racial slur at Jackie Robinson and other black players during a tryout.

On the Fenway Park wall on Yawkey Way, a plaque is mounted honoring Thomas Yawkey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
On the Fenway Park wall on Yawkey Way, a plaque is mounted honoring Thomas Yawkey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"Restoring the Jersey Street name," the team has said in a statement, "is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is inclusive and welcoming to all."

At the hearing Thursday, the commission said 100 percent of abutters agreed with the team's petition to change the name back to Jersey Street.

But the name change had drawn pushback, including from the charitable Yawkey Foundations, which has cited a "false narrative" about Yawkey and his record as team owner. Some prominent Greater Bostonians, including Cardinal Sean O'Malley, had come out in defense of keeping the Yawkey Way name.

In a statement Thursday, the foundations said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

"Tom Yawkey deserved to have his name live on at Fenway Park," the foundations said. "We can’t change today’s decision, but we remain hopeful that he will be remembered as the good and decent man he truly was."

Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan says the name change is a step forward for the city.

"I think it helps us to move into our next phase of history as it relates to how we grapple with race relations," Sullivan told WBUR.

An MBTA spokesman said Thursday the T will also work to change the name of the Yawkey commuter rail station, near Fenway.

The Red Sox have said they have no plans to change Morse code on the famed Green Monster that spells out the initials of Tom Yawkey and his wife Jean, who took over the team when Tom died in 1976.

With reporting by WBUR's Lynn Jolicoeur

Earlier Coverage:

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital manager. He occasionally reports on economic and transportation policy, climate and social issues, and politics.

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