LADY AT THE BAT: Blacks In MLB Down To 8.5%: My Thoughts

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blacks In MLB Down To 8.5%: My Thoughts

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida has released its annual report on the diversity of Major League Baseball. According to an article on, the report lists the percentage of black MLB players at 8.5%, down from 9.1% in 2010.  It has been declining a little every year since 2008 when it was at 10.2%.

At last count, the article on ESPN's website generated 2,582 comments, most of them critical of the article and the report. Most of the comments asked why no one is doing studies on the small number of whites and asians in the NFL and NBA. For example, jayk318 said this:

"Here's what I don't get......why aren't there studies done to determine the lack of white, hispanic, asian, etc. players in the NFL or NBA? Or the lack of asian players in the MLB? I could go in several directions with this, but the point is made. Why is the focus ONLY on the percentage of black players in MLB? And how is it anyone's responsibility to raise that percentage?"

Why? Jackie Robinson, that's why. Jackie Robinson was not only the first black player in Major League Baseball. He was the first black player in any major American sport. He paved the way, not only for other black baseball players, but for black players in the NBA, NFL and beyond. Had he not been successful, who's to say if or when a black athlete would have been given another chance? Also many historians believe that things like Brown vs Board Of Education and the Civil Rights Movement would never have happened had Robinson not been successful.

Now keep all of this in mind and think about that 8.5% again. The sport that started it all, that led to doors opening throughout society, has dwindling numbers of blacks on its fields. I think that's pretty significant.

What do you think?


Brittany Morgan said...

Interesting post Bern. The thing we need to remember here is that people who comment on these stories are generally trolls.
I think Major League Baseball is doing a nice job with their RBI program, but it's still not enough. I'd like to see a study done with the youth themselves... lets see if they can just tell us why they don't get into baseball as much.

Bernadette Pasley said...

You're right about the trolls, Brit. They're jerks, lol.

Good idea about the youth study. It would probably open a lot of eyes.

Jon Doble said...

Interesting thoughts. Though there are a few things to pay attention to with the study that ESPN discusses and thoughts for concern.

If the MLB had a percentage equal to the number of blacks in the US, (according to the 2010 census) 12.6% of the US population is black.

Because the Lapchick study treats Latinos/Hispanics as their own race. But the US Census doesn't. So you've also got to recognize that 2.5% of US population are Latinos/Hispanics are racially Black. So that drops the percentage of Blacks in the US population to 10.1% is the number shot for.

Typically, you also have a majority of Blacks are from poorer families. This is a really key thought to me.

Firstly, the NBA and the NFL are much quicker payoffs. In the MLB to make it to the big leagues, you have to play usually at least 2-3 seasons in the minors at $60k, and then 3 years at the major league $400k minimum. Jump into the NFL or the NBA and you're going to be making more than that right off the bat typically. Given the choice, most will choose the money.

Second, tying into the first, there is also the chance to play at the top level nearly immediately, rather than battle through years at the minors where less than 5% of draft picks are lucky to make it for any sustained time period at the major league level.

Thirdly, it requires more space and people to play baseball than the other sports. The field requires a good amount of space and is much more dangerous to play in minimally sized areas than the others because you're hitting a ball with a bat with the unpredictability of where it will end up, rather than throwing a ball only. Also, you can play football or basketball with just a handful of people. Baseball requires probably 14 players at the least to really play it. I know I don't have 14 friends I could organize to play a game of baseball.

Yes, the percentage is down, but I think it's more a result of kids choosing to focus on other sports than any sort of active thing. And I'm not even so sure that it's news, even because of Jackie Robinson.

Bernadette Pasley said...

Good points, Jon. Thanks for posting them. Come back again soon!