For professional athletes, taunting comes with the territory. So Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford probably didn't expect the catcalls to end during his stint this summer with the minor league Portland Sea Dogs while recovering from a wrist injury. But when an off-duty police officer allegedly hurled an obscure racial slur at Crawford, the lawman ended up losing his job.
Crawford was accosted July 5 before a game in Manchester, N.H., by John Perrault, who called the black player "Monday." ("Mondays" is a slang term that racists sometimes use for black people because, their thinking goes, it's an unpopular day of the week.) Crawford reported the incident to stadium officials, The Associated Press said, and after an investigation Perrault was fired Thursday from the Leominster, Mass., police force.
The decision by Mayor Dean Mazzarella to sack Perrault (pictured above) came after Leominster Police Chief Robert Healey held a disciplinary hearing for Perrault in which the officer was found to have a history of making racial slurs.
"You have demonstrated through your racist comments that you cannot continue as a patrol officer," was how Mazzarella put it in a letter terminating Perrault.
Perrault's alleged racist comments included telling a black man at a bar on St. Patrick's Day, "I didn't know they serve Guinness in Africa."
For his part, Perrault, through his counsel, Joseph Sandulli, denied that there was anything racial in taunting Crawford.
"He was criticizing Crawford for being a bad player, not because he was a black man," Sandulli said.
Sandulli also cited the testimony of two of Perrault's superior officers who were present at the game, and didn't detect any racist intent in his remark.
But Mazzarella was dubious.
"Your actions are so egregious that severe discipline is warranted," the mayor informed Perrault in the letter. "There is no place for someone who exhibits such objectionable behavior in the Leominster Police Department."
The use of "Mondays" as a racist epithet in Massachusetts has been cited before, including by Canadian-born comedian Russell Peters. In one routine for HBO's Def Comedy Jam in 2008, Peters (who is of Indian descent) noted how "Mondays" can be a code word for more outlandish epithets. "Why the f**k do you call black people Mondays?" he said that he asked a white Massachusetts man. Peters said the man responded: "Because nobody likes Mondays."
And of course, the Bay State was home to one of the most notorious public incidents involving race relations in the recent past. In the summer of 2009, famed Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct for allegedly breaking into what turned out to be his own home. The uproar culminated in a meeting at the White House 10 days after the incident, attended by Gates, the arresting officer, Sgt. Joseph Crowley, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. The meet-and-greet that was intended to help ease tensions was publicly dubbed the "beer summit."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that Russell Peters is black.