Friday, May 23, 2014

"My Skin is Against Me": Critical Race Theory & Baseball, Part II. B. General Managers and Ownership

B.  General Managers and Ownership
            This reluctance is grounded in negative stereotypes of African Americans in positions of leadership, as opposed to history.[i]  In the 1930s, when Major League Baseball was teetering on collapse, Negro Leagues were thriving.[ii]  Owners and executives of the Negro League teams crafted innovative promotions and fostered an exciting brand of baseball in order to keep fans coming to games.[iii]  Despite such examples, very few African Americans have been given the opportunity to be general managers in Major League Baseball.  With such a small sample size, success stories seem rare and thus advance the faulty stereotypes associated with African American general managers and owners .[iv]  However, in a recent, rare instance of opportunity, Kenny Williams, a young African American general manager, bucked the negative racial stereotype when his Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.[v]  The World Series win was the first for the White Sox in decades and Ken Williams was the only African American general manager in Major League Baseball at the time.[vi]  Despite this, the story of Ken Williams was not featured prominently in the media.[vii]
            Normally, young general managers in baseball who have any amount of success are branded as gutsy, innovative geniuses.  In fact, when Sports Illustrated released their top 10 general manager/executives of 2000-2010, both Theo Epstein and Billy Beane made the list.[viii]  Absent from the list (and the "honorable mentions") is Kenny Williams.[ix]  Despite not winning a World Series or even a pennant, Billy Beane came in 10th on the list.[x]  In fact, Billy Beane's successes with a limited payroll were deemed special enough to have a book and Oscar-nominated movie made about his executive managerial style and philosophy.[xi]    
            Even in the 21st century, Kenny Williams and other African Americans are viewed differently in baseball circles due to the color of their skin.  The foundational idea of Critical Race Theory is that racism is normal in everyday society.[xii]  This racism is embedded in our culture and seems natural.[xiii]  "Colorblind" laws and policies that treat whites and blacks equally do not cure societal racism that lies beneath the surface.[xiv]  It is presumed that racism no longer exists in America because instances of overt racism are rare and therefore societal racism proceeds as usual.[xv] 
            Similar institutional racism has existed in baseball for many decades.  Shaun Powell explains institutional racism creating a "cement ceiling" for African Americans in leadership positions in sports.[xvi]  First, Powell notes that blatant racism is not the reason for blacks holding so few positions of power in sports.[xvii]  Like Critical Race Theory explains, society no longer tolerates blatant racism, but is blind to institutional racism.[xviii]  There are not company-wide memos advising against hiring African Americans.  Stated differently, "There's no Oz wearing a white hood, hiding behind a curtain, preventing black folks from all the good jobs."[xix] 
            Powell describes a "buddy-buddy system" wherein whites in power hire other whites whom they know and trust.[xx]  Because of racial divides growing up and concurrent advancing through the ranks of a baseball organization, white executives are more likely to hire other whites they know as coaches and executives.[xxi]  In this vein, the white executive is not overtly discriminating based on race.[xxii]  However, due to a history of whites hiring other whites because of familiarity or a supposed "limited pool" of qualified minorities, African American candidates are passed over and a cycle develops.[xxiii] 

[i] Shropshire, supra, at 24.
[ii] Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (Hereinafter "Baseball"): 6th Inning (PBS television broadcast 1994).
[iii] Id.
[iv] Powell, supra 221-222.
[v] Id.
[vi] Id.
[vii] Id. 
[viii] 2000s: Top 10 GMS/Executives, SI.COM, (Dec. 22, 2009 12:15 PM),
[ix] Id. 
[x] Id.
[xi] Moneyball,, (last visited March 1, 2014).
[xii] Critical, 3.
[xiii] Id. 
[xiv] Id. 
[xv] Id. 
[xvi] Powell, at 207.
[xvii] Id. at 211.
[xviii] Critical, 3.
[xix] Powell, at 212.
[xx] Id. at 214
[xxi] Id. at 212
[xxii] Id. 
[xxiii] Id.  See Infra, Note II D. 

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