For African-Americans, sports have long been a source of joy, whether as something to watch on TV, or as a way to pull oneself out of poverty and into college. Save for hockey, all of America’s favorite sports—football, basketball, and baseball—have seen Black talents come and go for decades, and thrive along the way. But according to a new study, one sport may actually be losing its appeal to African-Americans.
According to a new report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, the percentage of Blacks in Major League Baseball continued its downward spiral this year. Though MLB received an A grade for overall diversity, the number of Black players in professional baseball dropped from 10 percent to 8.5 percent, thus giving it its lowest Black population in four years.
When Richard Lapchick, the director of UCF’s sports institute, began tracking the racial makeup of MLB in 1990, a full 17 percent of the players were Black. The sport’s biggest minority population is Latinos, who compose 27 percent of the players (even that is a drop from 28.4 percent last year, however).
“This has been a concern of Major League Baseball and leaders in the African-American community," says Lapchick. "However, the 38.3 percent of players who are people of color also make the playing fields look more like America with its large Latino population."
Even more troubling is the dearth of African-American management in baseball. As in most other sports with high populations of Black players, there are still very few coaches who are Black, reflecting the idea that many of the mostly white franchise owners are wary of Black leadership.
There are now only six Black or Latino team managers in the MLB, a drop from 10 in 2010. Also, coaches are people of color only 29 percent of the time. There are zero Blacks who hold the position of team presidents.
Of course, it’s a slight blow to the ego of the Black community that fewer of its baseball heroes are African-American. But it’s also high time we expected more out of team owners. I can almost guarantee that if you fix the lack of diversity in ownership, you’ll also fix the dipping diversity in players.