On April 15, 2007 Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th year of Baseball integration with few African Americans left in the game. Since 1975 professional baseball’s African American population has declined from 28 to 8 percent. This figure represents the lowest percentage of us born black players in baseball since the sport was fully integrated in 1959. At this rate, it is predicted the NBL will have zero African American players by the year 2017.
Have we as African Americans come a long way in Major League Baseball since 1947?
With the integration of Baseball the Negro Baseball League was destroyed. Baseball use to be a favorite pass time for African American Families. It keep our minds off the daily hardships we faced, it brought a since of community, and family. In 1920, Andrew Foster formed the first Negro baseball league with 8 teams. In the first season, more than 400,000 fans attended Negro League games. Black churches had leagues and black businesses supported young players. However, when baseball began to recruit Negro players to increase their star power on the roster, the black community were greeted by segregated seating and chicken wire barriers.
The very fact that the in 1964 the Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium was built in the middle of a poor Black community called Summer Hill in which according to the 1965 Atlanta Constitution Article “ the stadium development had crowded ten thousand people into 354 acres.” During segregation blacks communities were strong because no matter what your social economic status, white Americans forced us to live in the same community. You could see great role models such as your doctor, your lawyer, and teacher living in the same community. When the government needed land to build the new stadiums guess whose community need to make the sacrifice and relocate? The African American community. What they ripped up was more than housing for sports entertainment, they ripped up a community. Your church, your b usiness, your friend, and your neighbor had to be removed in the name of progress. What we got in return was low paying minimum wage jobs. Today, we still suffer! According to an Atlanta Brave official at the Rolling Out Minority Women Business Seminar, the best opportunity for minorities with the Braves diversity program is a “cleaning contract for the Stadium.”
Even worse is the team recruiting efforts of African American players? “Professional baseball has abandoned African Americans, replacing them with brown and black faces from Latin America and Asia. MLB has set up baseball academies in several Latin American countries as part of its worldwide outreach, and players from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela now comprises nearly 20 percent of baseball teams.” Today, they have only one person of African decent Andruw Jones (born Willemstad, Netherlands) left on the team. Their excuse is there is not enough qualified African American players available, when in fact right in their back yard, you have the 2004 Redan high school graduate Chris Nelson who signed a $2.5 million dollar signing bonus with the Rockies in their No. 1 dra ft pick June 2004.
“Baseball is striking out with black fans turned off by the lack of black faces on the playing field and the high cost of tickets. At a typical minor league game with 2,000 or so fans, you might only see one or two black fans, and those are usually parents,” says Linda Nelson, (Chris Nelson mom) “on a good day for a theme event (church night), you might see 15 or 20 black fans”.
Don’t believe the Hype!
Commissioner Allen H. (Bud) Selig in 1998 authorized the creation of the Diverse Business Partners program, an initiative design to increase economic opportunities by focusing on the cultivation of partnerships with minority and women owned businesses; accompanied by a supplier diversity program for the construction of ball parks. The commissioner also mandates require that minorities be considered the most high-profile positions in each major league organization, including general manager and field manager. On Wednesday May 16, 2007, the Atlanta Braves changed ownership to Liberty Media. However, according to the press release there will be no changes on the Braves Roster or management team.
Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that Major League Baseball ownership has approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves to Liberty Media. "I am pleased to welcome Liberty Media as the owner of the Atlanta Braves," said Selig. "I am also excited that Terry McGuirk (Atlanta Braves Chairman and CEO) will remain in his role with the club, along with John Schuerholz, Mike Plant, Derek Schiller, Bobby Cox and others. At this press conference, there were no new announcements of his 1998 initiative to improve minority “high profile positions” on the Braves team.
What can be done about discriminatory policies in the Atlanta Braves Organization?
The Atlanta Braves need a strong Work Force, and Supplier Diversity program to ensure Minorities receive more than 1% of the available contracts. The Braves community outreach program should build strong community partnerships for batting practice fields and minor league training programs for youth in the Dekalb, Fulton, Clayton and Atlanta Public schools to ensure future recruitment of African American players. The Braves should list all of their current minority contracts for 2007 and establish a community review board to ensure fairness. The Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk should set a goal to have major improvements implemented by 2010.
Forward your concerns to: Beth Marshall Atlanta Braves 404-614-1336 firstname.lastname@example.org Or write to: ATLANTA BRAVES · P.O. Box 4064 · Atlanta, GA 30302-4064 · 404/522-7630