MLB’s Civil Rights Game, Daily Practices At Odds

Baseball gives itself a lot of credit for pioneering integration, even though favoritism of white players continued well after Jackie Robinson’s big league debut in 1947, and other teams had grudgingly integrated their teams to keep up.

Jackie Robinson

Their latest effort of patting themselves on the back, the so-called Civil Rights Game played yesterday in Memphis, was so self-congratulatory that someone could have torn a rotator cuff.

From Steve Henson of YAHOO! SPORTS:

The Civil Rights Game was launched last year to celebrate baseball’s pioneering role in integration and to emphasize the renewed need to promote the sport among African-American youth. It was a two-day crash course in a cause central to our nation’s history, and though the 3-2 Mets victory was largely ignored by the baseball establishment, the African-American community rallied around it.

The game coincided with the date (sort of) and place of Martin Luther King’s assassination. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

With all due respect to the work and the legacy of Dr. King, this game strikes me as little more than a overly-glorified exhibition game set up by baseball for a quick, feel-good vibe in time for the start of their season. It’s insincere, especially for a league that has fewer than 10 percent of black athletes on its teams. It’s especially insincere for a league with no African-American owners, and one that sorely lacks the cultural relevance to whites or blacks of other leagues like the NBA or NFL. Baseball cares about money, and if it means making teams play in Japan or Memphis or on the moon, that’s what baseball will do.

Baseball can label their exhibition games in any way they see fit, of course, but the day-to-day actions of their front offices speak more loudly. Front offices that, frankly, seem reluctant to embrace the sense of equal opportunity that Dr. King sought for blacks over 40 years ago.