As America digests the first half of Ken Burns’ excellent documentary on Jackie Robinson, the takeaway for many will be pride in how far we’ve come since Robinson’s pioneering efforts. But more needs to be done — especially in baseball’s front offices and owners suites.
Pro baseball is a very white sport when compared to the NBA and the NFL: only 8 percent of MLB players are black by various estimates, and another 28 percent are Latino. The percentage of black professional baseball players has dropped over the years, and while MLB has taken some steps to address this — the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program is an important big step in attracting inner-city youth to the game — much more work is needed.
As is work in addressing blacks in baseball’s front offices and owners suites. Out of MLB’s 30 majority owners, none are black, and one — Artie Moreno — is Latino. While there are plenty of teams with black limited partners (Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves), diversity remains an issue amongst owners.
And diversity is even more of an issue in Minor League Baseball, where there are no black majority owners. Think about it: over 140 teams (we won’t count the MLB-owned rookie teams) and not a single black majority owner. To his credit, MiLB President/CEO Pat O’Conner has made diversity a goal for the industry and has worked to raise awareness among existing MiLB front offices. But the results so far have been disappointing: there are very, very few black GMs or C-level minorities, and no black majority owners. It’s time for the sport to step forward and make this happen — as soon as possible, and without the drama that surrounded Rock Newman’s bid to bring Minor League Baseball to Dayton. No one wants that.
So enjoy the second half of the Jackie Robinson documentary tonight, but keep in mind that the fight launched by civil-rights advocates 70 years ago is still in its infancy — and much more work needs to be done.
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