Echo From the Past or the Present? Washington Capitals victory over Boston Bruins spurs spasm of racism

Old Boston is also part of this story, as much as many from New England don’t want to hear it. No city in the United States has a more tortured intersection of race and sports than our supposed cradle of liberalism and democracy. It’s the city whose Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate, waiting until 1959 twelve years after Jackie Robinson broke through with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It’s the city that for decades rejected the greatest team basketball player in history, Bill Russell, because of his proud, unblinking opposition to racial intolerance. After dealing with years of everything from verbal abuse to the vandalizing of his home, Russell called the city “a flea market of racism.” Boston then embraced Larry Bird, to such a passionate degree his very jersey became a symbol of white arrogance, exemplified in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. It’s also paradoxically, (and fitting in a city this paradoxical) the first hockey town to integrate, when Willie O’Ree took the ice for the Bruins in 1958 (he would be the NHL’s last Black player for 16 years).