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).
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard discussed the series' future scheduling plans and said that he "would like to see two Canadian and two overseas races -- in Brazil and China," which would mimic the makeup of the '12 schedule, according to David Felton of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Bernard said, "We're an American governing body of open-wheel racing. I think we need to put our priority here in the U.S." He added, "In saying that, we would like three or four events internationally ... because that is where our partners and sponsors want to do business." Bernard added that "one of the series' main goals is to attract the 15 to 20 million fans he estimates American open-wheel racing lost during the CART-IndyCar wars of the 1990's" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/15).
SHIFTING GEARS: In California, Damian Dottore notes NBC Sports Network's coverage of the April 1 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama drew just a .25 rating in the U.S., the equivalent of about 250,000 HHs. Despite running opposite the NASCAR Sprint Cup Goody's Fast Relief 500, Bernard said that he was "disappointed with that number" and that both the series and NBC Sports "have to do a better job promoting IndyCars." The contract the IndyCar Series has with ABC "prevents a race being on the regular NBC network." However, Bernard said that "that doesn't prevent the network from promoting the races aired on its NBC Sports Network property" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/16). IndyCar driver Will Power said, "It's a pity because it's such a good product, good racing, good teams, good drivers and it's just not getting out there and that's unfortunate. ... NBC has to advertise more, it's as simple as that, if they care about IndyCar." Driver Dario Franchitti said, "NBC Sports has to spend some big money and has to promote better, because when you've got racing that good, you need to let people know” (AP, 4/14). Yesterday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach drew a 0.35 overnight rating, up from a 0.29 for last year's race (THE DAILY).
In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote if NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver succeeds Commissioner David Stern as is expected, "don’t expect Silver’s reign to be as long as Stern’s.” It could be “a lot shorter, in fact.” A league source said that “there has been talk among some owners that they want to see how Silver handles the post in the short term.” Some NBA insiders “were hopeful” that MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil “would be given serious consideration.” A source said, “When you’re following someone like David, which isn’t going to be easy to do, Scott would be tremendous as the face of the league” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/15).
MIAMI MELTDOWN: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been a “staunch supporter of hockey in South Florida throughout the Panthers’ lean years of lousy play and shaky attendance,” but Bettman “virtually melted hope of a Winter Classic” being held in Marlins Park. Bettman said, “I think doing an outdoor game based in a warm climate, based on current climatic conditions and technology, is very difficult to be thinking about. They’d open the roof and it would be hot” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/15).
MAKING THE GRADE: In N.Y., Gary Buiso wrote unruly NFL fans “booted from stadiums this year will be required to pass a code-of-conduct exam -- or they won’t be allowed back in for another game.” Dr. Ari Novick, who designed the test, said, “We’re not trying to squash anyone’s passion. We’re just trying to say don’t be violent.” Novick said that requirements will “vary depending on the stadium, but most of the time the stadium louts will have to pass the test before being allowed back in” (N.Y. POST, 4/15).