Jay Kang on baseball’s whiteness problem:
“The Griffey showdown was one in a long line of coded racial arguments, minor battles between two types: the ‘standard’ white player and his nonwhite foil. The archetype of the white baseball player has always been a study in negative space. He does not flip his bat after home runs. He does not insult the hard-working fans with talk about politics. He never takes more than one day at a time. As a result, he cannot exist without a foil to embody all those ‘flashy’ or ‘hotheaded’ or ‘provocative’ things he is not. The foils, of course, have generally been black. But as the demographics of the sport have changed, so, too, has this dynamic.
Last year, black players made up just over 8 percent of big-league rosters, down more than 50 percent from 1981. Analysts have been searching for an explanation. Some argue that baseball’s retrograde culture and traditions no longer appeal to inner-city youth who have been mesmerized by the speed of basketball and football. Others focus, far more convincingly, on the rising expenses of youth baseball programs and the relative dearth of scholarships offered by college baseball programs: 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.”
Kang mentions Chris Rock, who made a really interesting short video about the sport’s declining popularity with blacks, and why that’s a problem for both baseball and America.
The sooner the “unspoken rules” die off the better. And it might be too late.