Last year, we celebrated Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday. This year, we celebrate the centennial of the Negro Leagues. In the almost 73 years since Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, MLB continues to experience a decline in the number of baseball players who are Black or African American.
Last year’s Racial And Gender Report Card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport noted that in 18% of Major Leaguers were African American in 1991. Last year, African Americans accounted for less than 8% of MLB players. According to USA Today, there was a total of 68 African American MLB players. Three teams had no African Americans on their Opening Day rosters; 11 teams had only one.
The question is, why? It has been argued that Blacks are not encouraged to play baseball, the games are too long, or the process of entry into the professional ranks is too long. A few years ago, an article in USA Today argued, “While these statements are correct, many overlook the socio-economic transformations that occurred in America during the last 70 years: deindustrialization, suburbanization and mass incarceration. These had a disproportionate impact on black men and their community and are the major reason why the percentage of black baseball players has declined since 1981.”
Four years ago, one of my favorite players, Adam Jones, noted: “In baseball, they don’t need us. Baseball is a white man’s sport.’’ He was actually referring to the “take a knee” controversy in football at the time and the fact that MLB players were discouraged from participating. But it is as good an answer as any. If we look at the rest of baseball, we see a startling pattern in the data for 2018:
- MLB Central Office staff: 67% White, 33% people of color, including 9.8 African Americans. Women account for 30.8%
- Baseball Team Owners (Majority Owners): 97.5% White, 2.5% Latino, 0% African American. No women are majority owners.
- Managers: 86.7% White, 0% African American, no women.
- Coaches, 52.5% White, 7.5% African American, 0.5% women.
- Team CEOs/Presidents: 100% White Men.
- General Managers/Presidents of Baseball Operations: 86.7% White, 6.7% African American, 0% women.
- Team Vice Presidents: 85.2% White, 6.3% African American, 19.2% women.
- Team Senior Administrators: 80% White, 5.3% African American, 28.6% women.
So, yeah. I’d say that baseball is a white man’s sports.