SBD/April 16, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Decline Of African-Americans In MLB Discussed As League Marks Jackie Robinson Day

MLB had all players yesterday wear No. 42 in honor of Robinson
MLB now has the "lowest percentage of African-American players since the earliest days of the sport's integration," according to research cited by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. The African-American population in baseball this season "has plummeted to 8.05%, less than half" the 17.25% in '59. It is a "dramatic decline" from '75, when 27% of rosters were African-American. Former MLBer and current agent Dave Stewart said, "Baseball likes to say things are getting better. It's not getting better. It's only getting worse. We've been in a downward spiral for a long time, and the numbers keep declining." Nightengale reports 10 teams "opened the year with no more than one African American on their roster, and 25% of African Americans in the game" are on three teams -- the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers. Foreign-born players in '12 "made up 28.4% of opening-day rosters." MLB officials said that the league is "trying to reverse the trend with their urban academies and annual Civil Rights exhibition game." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "We're trying to get better. It won't happen overnight. And we're very comfortable saying it will be better." Nightengale notes the lack of African-American players "affects diversity in the stands." A recent Scarborough Marketing Research Study indicated that just 9% of fans "who attended an MLB game last season were African American." Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen said, "It's what you grow up around. For the African-American community, it's more basketball, it's more football. Just the hype of it. It's what people like" (USA TODAY, 4/16).

MORE WORK TO BE DONE: Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day throughout MLB, and in N.Y., Tim Smith writes when MLB decided that all players "would wear No. 42 every April 15, the day that Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, it was one of the greatest things that the sport could have done." While it "doesn’t erase one of the ugliest stains on American history, it provides an opportunity to reflect on just how far America has come and just how far it has to go with regards to race relations." Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, said, "It’s important that the young people hear that story." Yankees CF Curtis Granderson had sponsor New Balance "create a pair of cleats bearing the No. 42 logo that he wore" during last night’s game. He planned to "auction off the shoes and one of the two jerseys he wore following the game and donate the proceeds to the Jackie Robinson Foundation." Though the number of African-Americans playing in MLB has been "slowly declining over the years," Granderson does not see that as "diminishing Robinson's legacy." He said, "I don’t think Jackie’s image was to get just African-Americans to play, because in the Negro Leagues you had Latin Americans playing baseball because they couldn’t get a chance to play in the major leagues. It opened up doors for everybody. I think that’s the one thing he’d be proud of" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/16).

FOCUS ON FRONT OFFICE: In N.Y., William Rhoden writes there "needs to be a focus beyond the playing field," and MLB "needs a healthy pool of players who can be a prime source for front-office positions throughout the sport." Former MLB VP/Rules & On-Field Operations Bob Watson said, "We need to cultivate managers, minor league directors and executives. To attract young African-Americans and inspire them, they need to see people who look like them" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/16).
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