By Ken Reed
I enjoy Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day every year. Robinson deserves to be honored in recognition of all the abuse he took while breaking baseball’s color barrier and for the positive impact he had on civil rights in this country. And it’s cool seeing every MLB player wearing Robinson’s number 42 one day a year.
But MLB always brushes aside the ugly racism that existed for decades before Robinson’s first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. And they don’t mention anything about how long it took MLB as a whole to fully integrate after Robinson first played for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947 . Moreover, there’s never any mention about how MLB basically stole the top players from the Negro Leagues and eventually killed off Black-owned and Black-run businesses by not integrating Negro Leagues employees in any way into white baseball.
Craig Calcaterra addresses this issue head-on in his April 13th “Cup of Coffee” column:
“(F)or the 20th straight time since they began formally commemorating Jackie Robinson Day in 2004, there will be little if any official discussion of Major League Baseball’s role in keeping baseball racially segregated for most of its first century of existence and how, actually, Jackie Robinson’s debut didn’t really integrate baseball in any substantive way given how most of the teams dragged their feet, adhered to unofficial ‘we can only have two Black players at a time’ rules, or simply refused to integrate until absolutely forced to and then only did it in a half-assed way until at least the 1960s.
“Finally, there will, once again, be no acknowledgment, let alone a commemoration of how Major League Baseball simply cherrypicked the best talent from the Negro Leagues, did almost nothing to bring non-stars, minor leaguers, managers, coaches, executives, trainers, or team staff from the Negro Leagues into the AL or NL, and thereby let a huge ecosystem of Black-owned and Black-run businesses simply crash and burn, almost certainly by design.”
Jackie Robionson Day is April 15th. It’s fine to enjoy the festivities and reflect upon what Jackie Robinson meant to baseball, sports and our country as a whole. But it’s also healthy to take a couple minutes to think about what MLB is washing over regarding an ugly part of its history.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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