MLB sort of understands civil rights; will the fans follow?

The dream of Robinson can't end with ballplayers wearing #42s every April 15.

April 15 has taken on a new meaning for Major League Baseball over the past 15 years. Instead of just another mid-April game, fans pack the stadiums to see loving tributes to the man that broke the color barrier, Jackie Robinson. All players, coaches, and heck even the umpires wear number 42 jerseys with pride, remembering the day where baseball became one of the first major industries to integrate. In recent years, much of the conversation around Jackie Robinson Day revolves around the shrinking number of African American players in the game, but there are other concerns we need baseball to address.

Baseball has not always been a bastion of progressive thinking. Let’s face it, they had labor issues for decades, discriminated even after Robinson broke into the game, and occasionally fans boo special guests who are making a point at the Civil Rights Game. However, in a time where our political system is increasingly polarized and the American people are tuning out their leaders at a growing rate, perhaps it’s time for baseball to really step up what it means to have Jackie Robinson Day and the Civil Rights Game.

As far as I know, no other professional sports honor integration or civil rights. Just baseball. It’s beautiful and striking to see all players, black, white, latino, all wearing number 42. It’s beautiful to see players of all races and backgrounds donning Negro League throwbacks during the Civil Rights Game. Baseball, unlike any sport, is keenly aware of its past and tries its hardest to respect it.

Now it’s time for the fans to step up to the plate and hit a home run for civil rights and truly respect and understand what baseball is doing with Jackie Robinson Day and the Civil Rights Game.

It’s up to us, the fans, to understand baseball’s past so we can better understand the present and our future. Baseball took a giant leap forward in 1947 and it didn’t look back. Jackie Robinson faced immense amounts of hatred and bigotry, but he kept playing and became a voice for civil rights in baseball. Henry Aaron stood up to death threats and didn’t let seething racism stop him from surpassing Babe Ruth as the Home Run King. It’s powerful. We must understand where they came from, the odds they faced, and learn how we can better ourselves as a society.

The dream of Robinson, Aaron, and Martin Luther King Jr. is not yet realized. It’s going to take more than the game of baseball for our society to become one where all people are created equal. We cannot let the memories of Robinson, King, and so many others go unrealized. It’ll make for a better game, a better country, and a better world.

Let’s do our part and I hope to see everyone at the Civil Rights Game this August as the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Atlanta Braves in what should be quite the honor for all those breaking barriers. After all, isn’t that why we love baseball?


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