By Gabe Fernandez
America’s favorite pastime is living in a past time.
Last Tuesday, Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones, one of the more outspoken and passionate African-American players in baseball, was asked about why there seems to be a lack of Major League Baseball players publicly speaking on the problems they see in the country.
Jones’ answer to USA Sports Today was blunt, but honest: “Baseball is a white man’s sport.”
Statistically speaking, he’s not wrong. The percentage of white players on Major League-rosters this year is 59.07 percent. In contrast, black players made up just 8 percent of the major league population last season, down 50 percent from 1981.
The numbers aren’t better in college. According to a report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, black players made up only 2.9 percent of Division I college baseball teams in 2014-2015.
One would think that a factual statement made by a well-respected athlete would not receive much attention as news. As a matter of fact, the diversity problem in Major League Baseball is so concerning they even created an on-the-field task force to take on the problem.
But, of course, this is America. When a black man is right, he’s wrong. If he’s an athlete, he has to stay that way. His thoughts are not respected or accepted and, as a result, Jones’ comments quickly made headlines and news segments across the country.
The media wave that followed went to prove a couple of things. First, that baseball as a sport has taken a lot of steps backward in terms of progressivism. The sport that championed desegregation by bringing in Jackie Robinson and moving the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta on the condition that the stadium be integrated is a mere shadow of itself.
Second, that most of white America is not interested in discussing issues directly involving race. They only want to speak up on irrelevant topics that are irrelevant to the main issues at hand. It makes sense; it’s easier. Why talk about the uncomfortable stuff when you can deflect it by debating facts nonsensically?
For the first time since the days of Muhammad Ali, the “Black 14,” and Tommie Smith and John Carlos, we are seeing more American athletes use their profession as a platform for outright protest than before. The movements and cries that began in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore have spilled into professional and amateur fields around the country.
While Adam Jones continues to stand during the National Anthem, we see the effects of these growing protests by having high profile black athletes talk about racial issues that plague this country. Hopefully, his mere mentioning of the topic will inspire other athletes to do so without fear.
Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Keith Allison’s Flickr.
Gabe Fernandez is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.