Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bonds Right about Racism in Beantown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bonds Right about Racism in Beantown

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Freeman, Times-Union sports columnist

When Barry Bonds talks about Boston, when he says the city is so racist he would never play there, he is talking about memories. Memories like those of Dee Brown, who left Jacksonville University 14 years ago to play for the team that drafted him, the Boston Celtics. Brown was in the Boston-area for only a few days when he and his fiancee found themselves face down on the ground, seven police officers surrounding them, guns drawn.

In September of 1990, Brown was sitting in his car outside a post office in Wellesley, a close suburb of Boston. He was filling out paperwork and paying bills when the cops arrived, ordered him out of the vehicle, and to drop his gun. Somehow, they had mistaken Brown's small ink pen for a weapon.

It turns out that a week earlier a bank was robbed across the street from the post office and the teller told police the robber was back. But it was Brown. In the end, the only similarity between Brown and the criminal was the color of their skin. They looked nothing alike.

"That was my first real time out of Jacksonville," said Brown, who is now coaching the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars. "I remember the last thing my grandfather told me before I left Jacksonville was that, 'You're going to Boston. Remember that's the South.' "

"I didn't know what he meant until that incident happened to me," Brown added. "I still like Boston. I go there every summer. But I definitely understand Barry's point. After my incident, I became much more aware of where I went in Boston because there was so much racial tension."

When Barry Bonds talks about Boston, when he says the city is so racist he would never play there, he is talking about memories, memories of a summer night in Beantown when I came within a breath of being beaten to a pulp.

It was the third day of my internship at The Boston Globe in June of 1987. I was returning home from the office through a neighborhood called Savin Hill, a working class swath of Dorchester, when someone screamed from an apartment window that blacks are not allowed to walk through their neighborhood at night. Except he used a more colorful word for blacks.

Not being all that bright, I yelled back several choice words allowed only on cable television.

Less than a minute later, about one dozen younger-looking white men flowed into the street. Some were carrying baseball bats; I saw others pick up large rocks and bricks. All were screaming ugly racial taunts and began hurling their weapons. Most missed their target, which was my head, I believe.

The only thing that probably saved me from a beatdown was that first, I was running like Deion Sanders on a punt return and second, a group of about five to 10 middle-aged blacks that lived in Dorchester, and had been watching the entire episode unfold, waved me toward them, and then formed a protective cocoon. …

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