By Ken Reed
On April 15, 1947, The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. It was a huge moment in baseball history and a landmark civil rights event for the United States.
Today, Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrates the momentous occasion every April 15th. All MLB players wear the number 42, Robinson’s number, on the 15th to remember and honor the courageous actions of both Rickey and Robinson.
However, as we celebrate Jackie Robinson Day this year, we’re faced with a sobering reality: Only 7.8% of MLB players (67 total) are African-American. The high was 18.7% in 1981 and between 1972 and 1996, the percentage of African-American players in the big leagues never dropped below 16%, according to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).
MLB has long been aware of the trend. It began a Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program in 1989 to encourage more African-Americans to play the sport. Today, MLB has six urban academies operating around the country and there are 220,000 kids playing baseball in RBI programs across the land. Until the last couple years, when there was 13 African-Americans selected in the first round of baseball’s draft, the RBI program has had little impact at the professional level.
The downward trend can’t be blamed solely on Major League Baseball. There are numerous socio-cultural factors involved in this trend. However, baseball, as a whole, needs to be doing a better job selling the virtues, values and benefits of playing baseball to young African-American children and their parents.
Baseball may no longer be the national pastime but it should remain a game for all Americans.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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