The Renaming of Yawkey Way Has Been Delayed, Again

Red Sox leadership asked to postpone a vote.

In a move that Red Sox leadership say is supposed to give people more time to share their takes on the controversial street astride Fenway Park, the planned vote to rename Yawkey Way has been postponed.

The city’s Public Improvement Commission had been slated to make a final decision on Thursday. But Red Sox Vice President David Friedman intervened, saying in a letter obtained by the Boston Globe that a delay would give “ample time to review and fully consider the substantial testimony, and any new material that has been received from the community.” He says the Sox have not wavered from their stance on the issue and are still pushing for a name change.

Debate over whether to scrap the tribute to Tom Yawkey has raged since the former Red Sox owner’s complicated history with race (under his leadership, the Sox have the shameful legacy of being the last team to integrate) was thrust into the spotlight over the past two years. Last summer, current owner John Henry said he wanted to see the street renamed and that he was “haunted” by Yawkey’s past. The Sox and its neighboring businesses this year submitted an official request to restore the thoroughfare’s name to Jersey Street, which it had been called until it was renamed in 1977. Since then, the idea been discussed several times by the the commission, which will have to vote to approve the change.

An earlier scheduled vote on March 29 was also delayed.

In hearings, commissioners have heard both from supporters of Henry’s push, and those who say the Yawkey tribute should remain. Arguments opposed to the renaming include that Yawkey wasn’t the bigot many have said he was, and that critics should take into account that he was a philanthropist whose money supported causes like the Jimmy Fund. The Yawkey Foundation has fiercely defended its namesake and has said it was “deeply disappointed” with Henry’s decision. The Sox have taken pains to distinguish the nonprofit’s indisputably good work from Yawkey’s troubled past.

The Boston Herald reports that officials have received 50 letters on the subject: with six in favor of changing the name, 35 in favor of keeping it, and nine who didn’t take sides. A final vote may come on April 26, when the next meeting is scheduled.