Major League Baseball has finally decided to begin changing how it’s run after decades of dealing with a racist history.
In the past, the organization excluded Black people from being a part of the Major Leagues. MLB owners refused to sign them for decades, leading to the creation of “Negro Leagues”—leagues solely for Black players. It was only in 1947 that the MLB finally signed their first Black major league player, Jackie Robinson.
With the recent political climate, MLB finally decided to make some changes.
On July 23rd of this year, Major League Baseball hosted its Opening Day with support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In the first game of the season between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, a BLM logo could prominently be seen on the pitcher’s mound. It’d been stenciled in, along withe the MLB logo, in the Washington ballpark and in others around the league.
Besides the logo, they’ve recently decided to allow players to visibly show support for social justice movements by wearing patches on their uniforms, BLM batting practice T-shirts, and social justice message-bearing cleats. Some players could be seen wearing customizations baring simple yet potent statements like "United for Change" and "Black Lives Matter." On top of that, prior to the Opening Day game’s playing of the National Anthem, players knelt while holding a black ribbon to show solidarity with the movement. Though many players stood for the anthem itself, this brief display was seismic on its own. Baseball has always been the "all American" sport, synonymous with hotdogs, cracker jacks, and patriotism. Demonstrations like these show that perhaps that definition is changing—or at least that protest is patriotic.
According to CNN, these changes are related to new policies implemented by Major League Baseball to back the Black Lives Matter movement.
This decision has been quite a controversial one. Plenty of baseball fans have spoken out about how politics should be kept out of baseball. A former Giants player, Aubrey Huff, criticized the MLB's decision in a video, saying, “Today is opening day, and for the first time in my life, I could give two shits...You have abandoned the people that support you the most, and you have caved to this leftist mob mentality.” Huff has more recently tweeted public praise for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17–year–old murder suspect in the shooting of BLM protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
On the other hand, some BLM activists have claimed that Major League Baseball isn’t doing enough, and should be donating rather than just publicly supporting the movement.
While many complain about bringing politics into this popular American pastime, politics and sports have always intertwined. A perfect example is how Major League Baseball denied Black players entrance for decades. Other than that, there have been major political issues related to transgender rights in sports. During the Cold War, President Jimmy Carter wanted the U.S. to boycott the Olympics because of the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan. If anything, politics and sports go hand in hand. There's no way for sports to be completely unaffected by the political climate. In this case in particular, MLB is simply doing what it can to move towards a more progressive future.
All of this backlash raises the question as to whether other sports should follow suit. Both the NFL and the NBA have taken similar strides towards supporting the movement. Roger Goodell, the commissioner for the NFL, recently released a video apology for not listening to player’s concerns over race. This specifically referred to players such as Colin Kaepernick who have knelt during the national anthem. The NBA, like the MLB, painted the BLM logo on their basketball courts.
Even though the majority of the protest coverage occurred over the summer, the movement itself is not over. We’ve started to see large corporations stand in solidarity with protesters. With the recent changes in Major League Baseball, it's obvious that sports are no exception. Hopefully, these adjustments indicate a brighter future to overcome the darker past of the MLB.