The Black Lives Matter movement is gaining long overdue momentum, and those who support it are making every effort to speak out and share useful information in any way they can. The sports world is experiencing a huge surge of support for the movement, and it’s expected that professional sports leagues back the movement very publicly. When the MLB failed to speak out in a timely way, professional baseball players took it into their own hands.
On June 15, various Black MLB players participated in a video supporting the movement, highlighting the phrase “One team. One dream. Be the change.”
The video included baseball players such as New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts.
It was released on Twitter by New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton as part of the #Players4BLM campaign. In total, 42 players echoed the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” The number 42 carries extra meaning in baseball. It was the number of Jackie Robinson, the first post-1900 Black MLB player, and is now a retired number in the league.
The players’ video urged the MLB to make changes in support of the movement, and it’s about time the league recognized the disparities between the majority-white front office and its players, almost half of whom are people of color.
In April 2019, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport released a study that measured the amount of minority hiring in the MLB. The league earned a score of 79, equivalent to a B-, which is arguably not great. Many of the upper-level positions are held by white men, which affects which players get hired and how said players are perceived by the community.
In 2018, 41% of MLB athletes were people of color, with 8.4% being Black athletes. Because people of color make up such a large part of the MLB’s demographics, one could argue that the league should be more vocal amid the BLM protests. Its players were (and still are) speaking up. After some delay and pressure from the public, the league followed the lead of its players.
Eventually, the MLB pledged to donate a collective total of more than $1 million to groups supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. All 30 MLB teams and owners are making donations to these groups as well.
In an effort to honor Juneteenth, an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, the MLB inverted the colors of its official logo.
The driving force behind the large donation was none other than Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein. He was inspired by the Chicago protests and realized the MLB should be doing more.
The donation was announced at the start of the MLB draft, accompanied with a call to make a change within the league. Representatives from each team held placards that read, “Black Lives Matter. United for Change.”
The phrase “United for Change” comes from the notion that we are all in this together, according to New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. He also acknowledged the systemic racism in our country and noted that the MLB is not immune from it.
While the MLB has now pledged donations and spoken out, it comes weeks after the Black Lives Matter protests began. The NBA, NFL and NHL all beat the MLB to making a statement. Now that the MLB has spoken out and pledged to do better, it is time to see real results because there are systemic problems that need to be fixed — now.
Only six out of 30 MLB managers are people of color and only two baseball department heads are Black. To top it all off, there is only one principal owner who is a person of color.
Epstein, who organized the MLB’s donation, admitted that he needs to change as well and cited specific instances when he could have done better.
“The majority of people that I’ve hired, if I’m being honest, have similar backgrounds as me and look a lot like me,” Epstein said in a conference call before the draft, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s something I need to ask myself why. I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes. I need to find a way to be better.”
Overall, the MLB has made commendable donations to combat racial inequality. But now it needs to make a tangible change within the league itself — and the world is watching.