MLB is celebrating the 15th-anniversary of Jackie Robinson Day. He was an athlete, barrier breaker, civil rights activist, and a selfless leader, who carried the burden of changing a nation and navigating through an MLB culture that for the most part didn’t want his kind around.
Utilizing his gifted eye-hand coordination and multiplicity of skills, Robinson excelled as a player and opened the flood gates for other players of color in MLB.
With the recent protests throughout sports representing a need for Black players and sympathizers to stand unified against an establishment that continues to ignore their cries for equality, it makes me ask my self, “What is Jackie Robinson thinking as he looks down upon us in heaven?
He’s probably disappointed in the less than 8 percent of Black players in the league. He came up in an era where quality Black ballplayers were coming out of the woodwork. Baseball was America’s pastime and MLB was definitely a ticket into higher society for Black and Latino ballplayers. The number of Latino ballplayers has exploded in MLB and that can be attributed to Jackie. The number of Black ballplayers is back on the rise thanks to MLB’s diversity programs and aggressive efforts to identify and develop Black baseball talent.
Jackie would be disappointed at the two Black managers, two Black GM’s and 0 Black owners in MLB. It would break his heart anytime somebody like Adam Jones says baseball is ” a white sport.” In terms of progress, some things haven’t changed in the last half-century or so.
The idea that baseball is a “white” sport has seeped into MLB locker rooms during this time of protests and pro teams refusing to take the field following the Jacob Blake shooting. Whereas the NBA players were all in with sitting out some games and some NFL teams canceled practices, MLB seemed very fractured on how they wanted to go about supporting social justice and Black lives.
Back in January of 2019, Jackie’s daughter Sharon Robinson criticized the lack of activism by Black MLB players. Even as this movement against social injustice continues to pick up steam, can we honestly say things in MLB have improved since then?
"… there’s no better time to look back into history and see how much has changed but how much work still needs to be done.” – Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter, via @washingtonpost: https://t.co/kyLS6e9ZXJ
— Museum of the City of NY (@MuseumofCityNY) January 30, 2019
The disconnect between the white and Black and even Hispanic MLB players prompted Jack Flaherty, a Black St. Louis Cardinals player who protested Wednesday night’s game alongside his teammate Dexter Fowler and called for greater unity in MLB and the country to tweet: “Why is it so hard to do something unified for 1 day just 1 day?”
7 MLB games were postponed on Thursday night — one night after a few Black players in MLB took a stand for racial injustice including Dodgers star Mookie Betts. Some guys like veteran Matt Kemp, refused to play and others, like Mets player Dominic Smith took a knee during the anthem.
The riveting emotional speech that Smith delivered on Wednesday night, inspired other teammates to have his back on Thursday, but some people feel like the MLB players waited too long and missed their chance to truly be a part of sweeping change in this country.
On Thursday the Mets and Marlins dropped a Black Lives matter shirt on the mound and took the night off. You kind of wish they didn’t leave Dominic Smith out there by himself on Wednesday night. As teammates, they owed him the support because of how deeply it affected him.
Jackie would be proud of the fact that the players were able to revisit the issue, have open and honest dialogue and come to the conclusion to do it right this time.
— MLB Players Trust (@MLBPlayersTrust) August 27, 2020
MLB still has somewhat of an identity crisis, but that’s why celebrating players such as Jackie Robinson is important. That’s why celebrating the Negro Leagues centennial this season, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, was important. There are enough players who understand the historical significance of supporting the Black players in the league — even if there are only about 70 of them. If MLB is true brotherhood, then the players should have a united front and it seems they are at least working their way towards that.