Citing Agreement With Foundation, BC Will Not Change Name of Yawkey Athletic Center

With the Boston Red Sox in talks with the City of Boston to rename Yawkey Way, the street outside Fenway Park, Boston College said it will not change the name of BC’s Yawkey Athletics Center. Recipients of grants from the Yawkey Foundation, one of the main benefactors that contributed to the building’s construction, are required by agreement with the foundation to bear the Yawkey name, according to University Spokesman Jack Dunn.

The street outside Fenway is named after long-time Red Sox owner Thomas “Tom” Yawkey, who owned the team for 44 seasons, but has faced criticism of late because the Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to integrate black players.

The Yawkey Athletics Center, which opened in March 2005, was built entirely by private donations, according to a BC Athletics webpage. Those included a $15 million donation from the Yawkey Foundation, for which the building was named. The $27 million building houses the football offices, player lounges, sports medicine offices, equipment rooms, a gym, and the Murray Family Function Room.

“The ongoing discussion by current Red Sox ownership to rename a public street, which was named after former owner Tom Yawkey, does not involve the recipients of Yawkey Foundation grants, who are required by agreement to bear the Yawkey name,” Dunn said in a statement to The Heights. “The University remains grateful to the Yawkey Foundation for their generosity in support of Boston College.”

Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933, and owned the team until his death in 1976, after which it was owned by a trust in his wife, Jean Yawkey’s name until 2002. During this time, the Red Sox were the last to integrate, with infielder Pumpsie Green signed 12 years after Jackie Robinson played his first season for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The Boston Herald reported in August that John Henry, the current owner of the team, was “haunted” by this history and wants the name of Yawkey Way changed.

According to a Boston Herald article from Jan. 19, the Red Sox have begun the process of changing the name and have been in contact with the City Council and the Mayor’s office.

“We’re talking to our neighbors and city council members, we have to have a sponsor of our petition so we’re engaged in those discussions right now and would anticipate a petition being filed,” Sam Kennedy, the president of the Red Sox, said to the Herald.

The Yawkey Foundation II was established by Jean Yawkey in 1982, and has donated more than $450 million to charities, according to the foundation’s website. The sale of the Red Sox to an ownership group led by Henry in 2002 enabled the significant expansion of Yawkey Foundation II’s philanthropic activity. Beneficiaries other than BC include Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Catholic Charities. The Yawkey Foundations’ website also includes a refutation of the claims of racism made against Yawkey, citing attempts at signing several black players and prospects, and the signing of black players to the organization’s minor league teams.

The foundation has addressed the concerns over Yawkey and Yawkey Way, and it released a statement on Aug. 17 when the Red Sox first proposed the name change.

“Jean and Tom Yawkey’s philanthropy has always been color blind,” the statement said. “Their extraordinary generosity has made a significant impact on Massachusetts and the Greater Boston community, contributing more than $450 million to hundreds of non-profit organizations and helping improve the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children of all backgrounds. We are honored to have the Yawkey name on so many organizations and institutions that benefit Bostonians of all races—and disheartened by any effort to embroil the Yawkeys in today’s political controversy.”

Featured Image by Boston College Athletics