Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Editorial: ‘New Era’ confined to uniforms

MLB should be more accepting of change

Every club in Major League Baseball (MLB) and all of its minor league teams have their baseball caps made by New Era Cap Company.

But ironically, the MLB’s choice of brand does not reflect the landscape of the league today. Baseball is arguably the one professional sport that drags its feet and raises its fist at the mention of the word “change.”

One area that is declining fast and desperately needs adjustment is the lack of African-Americans in the sport of baseball. A week after Jackie Robinson Day, the issue of the color barrier once again reared its head.

Every year, around the day the MLB celebrates and remembers its first black athlete, the topic of racism makes its annual media resurgence. This year was no different, and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron added to the fire, revealing saved hate messages he received throughout his career.

Instantly, the topic of African-Americans and the league’s lack of attention to reach out to the black community became a hot topic across newspapers, radio and television.

According to a study from the MLB, only 8.3 percent of players on 2014 opening day claimed to be African-American or black. The highest registration of African-Americans, according to research by Mark Armour of the Society of American Baseball Research, was 19 percent in 1986.

These are not the days of Jackie Robison. It is 2014. There are no civil rights movements happening down South. It is a new age where racism is frowned upon and viewed as backward.
In the league’s defense, it has identified the lack of African-American players and dedicated its resources to increase the numbers.

According to Sports Business News, the league started a program called Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and founded the Urban Youth Academy. Commissioner of the MLB Bud Selig also created the On-Field Diversity Task Force to address the issue of creating diversity among the athletes.

Despite the endeavors of the league, African-Americans are still saying, “no thanks” to baseball. Baseball is simply not flashy or attractive enough compared to football or basketball.

ESPN reported that the NCAA allows Division I college baseball programs with larger rosters to offer around 11 scholarships to athletes. Low-income families with young athletes are not willing to take that risk when big-time programs in other sports offer full rides like candy.

“How are you going to tell a kid from the hood that I can give you a 15 percent scholarship to go play baseball or a full ride to go to Florida State for football?” C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees told ESPN’s Howard Bryant. “What are you going to pick? It’s not even an option.”

“Baseball’s a sport where you learn how to play catch with your dad,” Sabathia said. “There’s a lot of single-parent homes in the inner city, so it’s hard to get kids to play.”

Only two percent of players on collegiate rosters are African-Americans, Byrant reported. With the league primarily going after college athletes, it appears that it is unreasonable to think the numbers bring change.

In the new era of baseball, post Robinson, there are three teams who do not have a single black player: the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals.

Even more baffling is the number of African-Americans in leadership positions. There have only been four black managers in the history of the sport.

Before baseball can make any changes, it will need the MLB to take charge. It starts with promoting their black athletes to the public.

We live in a society where people do not want to wait for anything. It is about time the league focuses on the dropping numbers and takes to heart the brand on the back of its baseball caps.

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