Editorial: Red Sox should back up Alex Cora

The Boston Red Sox should have politely declined an invitation to attend a World Series championship celebration at the Trump White House. In accepting it, the organization put its players— and fans— in the awkward and unfair position of choosing sides in what has become a racially divisive public dispute over Thursday’s scheduled event.

Alex Cora, the Red Sox manager, has refused to attend because of Trump’s mismanagement of his native Puerto Rico’s arduous recovery from Hurricane Maria. “Even though the United States Government has helped, there’s still a long road ahead and that is OUR reality,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence [from the White House] is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”

The entire Red Sox organization— not just players of color— should back up their skipper and skip Trump’s photo op.

Red Sox leaders argue that their “optional” post-championship visits to the White House are pro forma and apolitical. They note that past visits included photo ceremonies with both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The organization, they say, is not aligned with anyone politically and is simply “honored” to be invited to the Executive Mansion.

But that position presents a false equivalency with past presidencies. The toxic nature of the Trump White House is truly without precedent. His behavior and rhetoric targeting immigrants and people of color, in particular, are offensive. Trump has actively given cover to the worst elements of the white supremacist movement. He characterizes entire regions of the world as “shitholes”— including the home countries of Red Sox players and fans.

Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, is particularly aggrieved by Trump’s cavalier response to the disaster on the island, a US territory. Who can forget Trump flinging rolls of paper towels at Puerto Ricans in the weeks following the storm?

This week, Trump offered up a characteristically false account of his administration’s response— wildly exaggerating the sum of federal aid delivered. Who is willing to bet that the president won’t use the occasion to insult Cora— the man who led the Sox to a win in the World Series in his first season as manager— in front of his players and bosses?

The unwillingness of Sox brass to acknowledge this reality is deeply disappointing, particularly given its ownership’s efforts in recent years to “right the wrongs” of past Sox regimes, which were notoriously backwards on matters of race and inclusion. As it stands now, the Red Sox roster is starkly divided along racial lines by who will attend and who will skip the ceremony. Players of color are staying away; white players and management are going. The awful optics of that alone should be reason enough for the organization to send in its regrets.

If all of this weren’t enough, let’s recall that the principal owner of the Red Sox— John Henry— is also the owner of The Boston Globe, one of the premier daily metropolitan newspapers in the nation. Its reporters— like all journalists— are constantly harangued and threatened by this deranged president, who is fond of referring to members of the media as “enemies of the people.” As of Monday, Henry was among those members of the Red Sox organization expected to attend the Trump party.

On this at-bat, the Red Sox have swung wildly —and missed— by putting themselves and their players in this pickle. But they don’t have to whiff a second time. There’s time for the team to do the right thing here and take a pass on the White House visit. Get behind your manager instead.

– Bill Forry