Kwani Lunis

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

All it takes is one glance at the Agganis Arena ice to notice the Boston University hockey player who stands out from the rest. The sole African-American on the team, Jordan Greenway, stands 6-5 and weighs 238 pounds, making him the biggest player on the team.

Yet the thing that truly distinguishes Greenway from his teammates goes beyond the human eye. He’s in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One Christmas gift arrived a week late for the BU forward, but the phone call he got was worth the wait. On his drive home from winter break, Greenway found out he had been selected to the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

“Jim Johannson called me a couple of days before and just told me, ‘You’re on the team.’ It wasn’t official yet, it wasn’t official knowledge so we kind of kept it confidential. But it was really good. I was really excited,” Greenway said. “One of the best Christmas presents I got.”

Johannson is the U.S. men's hockey team’s general manager and was part of the selection process. In April, the NHL announced that its players would not be participating in the Winter Games, which gave some minor leaguers and college players the opportunity of a lifetime. 

At the beginning of the year, it was Greenway’s goal to represent Team USA and now, he’s one of the four NCAA men’s hockey players to compete in South Korea.

Now, 60 years after Willie O’Ree integrated the NHL by playing for the Bruins, the story of hockey’s unhurried progress comes full circle in Boston. It wasn’t until an interview that Greenway learned he will be the first black player to break a 98-year color barrier in U.S. Olympic men’s hockey. As historical as this accomplishment is, the 20-year-old just hopes the sport will continue to grow.

“I just think I’m another kid going to play in the Olympics, I don’t really see it like that,” Greenway said. “I’m happy I am the first. I hope I’m the first of many and I hope I can just motivate younger kids to kind of try something different. I don’t think a lot of African-Americans play hockey at a high level. I’m just trying to get more and more of those kids to try and go out and do something different.” 

Hockey has taken Greenway around the world but he has always had the support of the two people he grew up with in Canton, New York. His mother, Shannon Sullivan, and younger brother, James “JD” Greenway have been his biggest supporters since this journey began.

When Jordan was 14, Sullivan agreed to send her sons to Shattuck-Saint Mary's, a boarding school in Faribault, Minn., on one condition; The Greenway boys would earn scholarships for college. At that time, Jordan didn’t know he would be this successful in the sport, but in retrospect, he’s glad he took a chance. 

“They’ve been great. My mom, she kind of lets us do as we please,” Greenway said. “She’s very helpful especially letting me go to Shattuck at a really young age. I don’t know if I would be here without that help but she’s done everything in her power to get us where we needed to be, even financially getting us to Shattuck. She’s been great.”

As for life after this year, Jordan says he’s just trying to live in the moment. The Minnesota Wild prospect has until Aug. 15 after his graduation from BU but he’s in no rush to think that far ahead.

February has brought a few more gifts to Jordan. Before heading to South Korea, he helped the Terriers defeat Harvard 3-2 in the first round of the Beanpot tournament at TD Garden. Greenway assisted on Brandon Hickey’s goal in the third period. The annual event includes BU, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern competing for bragging rights, but more important, the chance to drink out of the precious Beanpot. (that is, only if they’re 21, of course.). BU meets Northeastern in the final Monday night. Last year, the Terriers fell to Harvard 6-3 in the final.

The Games begin Friday and (full TV coverage on NBC and online at nbcolympics.com) and the men’s hockey competition starts Feb. 14, but the highlight of the month has nothing to the sport he loves. Jordan will be celebrating his 21st birthday on Feb. 16 and, of course, there is only one more gift he wants…

An Olympic gold medal.

Beyond the Jones incident, it’s time to confront racism in Boston

Beyond the Jones incident, it’s time to confront racism in Boston

“Boston is a racist city.”

That statement is often met with contempt by natives of “the Hub” and understandably so.

Why would one accept the fact that their home city was synonymous with racism in the Northeast? This would mean they’d also accept their own underlying prejudices rooted not only in their personal upbringing but based on a history that continues to promote the separation of the races and cultures it claims to embrace.

Better yet, maybe they’d have to face their former classmates who were bused miles away from home to “fix” this infamous segregation problem.

We get it.

What’s in the past should stay there, right?

It’s 2017, so racism in any form no longer exists.

Wrong.

For years this uncomfortable topic has been pushed to the back burner, slowly simmering, unattended, until another incident boils over. reminding everyone of the scalding-hot truth.

Monday night was one of those cases. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones told USA Today that he was the subject of racially charged language during a game at Fenway Park.

“A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me.” He explained. "I was called the N-word a handful of times tonight. Thanks. Pretty awesome.'' 

Red Sox team president Sam Kennedy issued a public apology Tuesday morning, saying, in part: “No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, nor be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few.” 

"This is unacceptable and not who we are as a city." Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told WBUR. "These words and actions have no place in Fenway, Boston or anywhere. We are better than this."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted similar sentiments

Somewhere in Boston, when the weather gets nice, and there isn’t must to talk about on Boston sports radio (or a certain basketball team is trying to recruit a certain free agent) the question reemerges. The problem then becomes, of all the media members to speak on the subject, how many of them are actually people of color and have experienced this “said racism”? 

The reality is, one will not recognize, understand, acknowledge or even address racism, or even the everyday microaggressions people of color experience, if you are not willing to accept its existence. What happened to Adam Jones was disgusting but the bigger issue at hand were the fans who observed it happening and sat mute.

Our worldview is based on the people we grew up with and took the time to try and understand. There’s nothing wrong with embracing where you come from, but when David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are the only black people you “know”, then comes the time to reevaluate the bubble you live in.

To be ‘racist’ in 2017 does not necessarily equate with white pointed hoodies and lynchings.

Conversations on race are fleeting. Everyone holds hands and sings Kumbaya at their local town hall meeting on “race relations” and by next week everyone forgets what happened.

Until the Bostonians are able to take an objective look back and understand the root of their problems, outsiders will continue to proclaim, “Boston is a racist city” and they won’t be far from the truth.