Friday, May 11, 2007

Jesse Jackson: Demanding Affirmative Action in Major League Baseball

Jesse Jackson is doing his usual shtick, but this time the target is a Major League Baseball team.
Upset over the lack of African-Americans on the Braves roster, members of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition asked for a meeting with team officials. They got one Monday.

Joe Beasley, Southern Regional Director for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said he and Dexter Clinkscale, the director of sports for the organization, met Monday morning for nearly two hours with Braves general manager John Schuerholz, assistant general manager Frank Wren and three other Braves officials.

“The team slipped . . . down to [no African-Americans]; it wasn’t something that just happened,” Beasley said Monday afternoon. “I think it was a lack of diligence on the part of the Braves to recruit African-American players. There’s not diminished enthusiasm for African-Americans playing baseball. It’s simply the opportunity hasn’t presented itself.”

Schuerholz acknowledged the meeting Monday but declined further comment, saying in a statement: “We had a meeting with Mr. Beasley and another member of his organization this morning and discussed a variety of topics.”

Less than 10 percent of major league players are African-Americans. In a recent interview on the subject, Schuerholz said: “You go to where the talent leads you. Finding major league-caliber baseball players is far too difficult if you try to narrow your criteria down to demographics.”

Countered Beasley, “As I expected, [Schuerholz’s] idea is the bottom line: I’ll put the best 40 men I can get wherever I can get them from on the field, and that’s fair. But the fact of the matter is if they put resources into recruiting here in the United States, and more specifically here in Atlanta, there are talented players here.”

The issue was brought to the attention of the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition during the 60th anniversary celebration of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. The Braves and Houston Astros did not have any African-American players on their 25-man rosters at the time. The Braves’ total grew with the promotion of left fielder Willie Harris, who is from Robinson’s hometown of Cairo.
This is a far cry from 1947, when Jackie Robinson and a whole cohort of black players broke the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball.

There was never any doubt that they fully deserved to play in the major leagues.

But, of course, society changes. Most relevant here, fewer black youth live in rural areas, towns and small cities where baseball diamonds are common. (Hank Aaron, for example, grew up in Mobile, Alabama.)

More black youth live in large cities where playgrounds have basketball hoops.

The result: fewer blacks in baseball, but blacks dominate the NBA.

Objecting to that is about as sensible as objecting to the fact that Canadians dominate professional hockey.

If we are going to have affirmative action quotas, we’ve got to replace a lot of blacks in the NBA with whites.

Interestingly, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered an online poll, asking readers what they thought about the situation. The question:
Why do the Braves have so few African-American players?
The responses:
  • There aren’t enough African-American prospects out there -- 13.04%
  • The Braves aren’t trying hard enough to bring them along -- 3.05%
  • Some of both of the above -- 4.61%
  • I don’t care who they are as long as they’re good players -- 79.29%
Quote obviously, the vast majority of the people who voted have the sensible view of the issue.

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