Diversity For Diversity’s Sake In Major League Baseball

“In the eyes of baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig, the sport he oversees is in a golden era. Attendance at major league games is at an all-time high, TV and Internet revenues are robust, and competitive balance never has been better.

Amid the good news, however, baseball is fighting a distressing trend: The number of black Americans in the game has dwindled to an all-time low.

Stars like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Joe Morgan once filled baseball’s diamonds, but black American players are becoming hard to find. U.S.-born blacks made up more than 27 percent of all players in the 1970s. That number had declined to 8.4 percent by last season.

Baseball officials are well aware of the problem. They know it’s bad for the league’s image and bad for business. Now, they face a difficult question: What’s to be done about it?

…Restoring interest in the game, however, isn’t simple. After all, people can’t be forced to play baseball, let alone well enough to have a long professional career. And it is particularly hard when baseball’s fan base contains a smaller percentage of blacks than those of other sports. Just 11 percent of baseball fans are black, compared with 18 percent for the National Basketball Association and 13 percent for the National Football League. According to the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, blacks make up 12.1 percent of total population.”

So, why is the fact that only 8.4% of MLB baseball players are black a problem? In basketball, as of 2004, only 21% of the league was white and almost half of them were from Europe. So, if anything, the numbers are far more skewed in NBA.

Yet, when Larry Bird said that the NBA needed more white players back in 2004, it was extremely controversial and he was slammed by some people as a bigot. For example, here’s what Seattle Times columnist Percy Allen said about Larry Bird,

“In essence, Larry Joe Bird is a bigot.

That would seem to be the most logical conclusion after watching an excerpt of his interview last night with ESPN’s Jim Gray in which Bird candidly — to his credit — answered the question of whether the NBA lacks enough white superstars.

“Well, I think so,” said Bird, the Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations. “You know when I played, you had me and Kevin (McHale) and some others throughout the league. I think it’s good for a fan base because as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America.”

Double standards aside, who cares whether a particular race of people are playing particular sports? In particular, if blacks are as into baseball, what difference does it really make in the end if MLB attendance is at an “all-time high?” Reaching out to young people of all races to get them to play your sport makes sense, but who cares about racial diversity for diversity’s sake in a professional sport?

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