Friday, May 23, 2014

"My Skin is Against Me": Critical Race Theory & Baseball, Part II. A. The Commissionership

A.  The Commissionership
            Major League Baseball has never had an African American commissioner.[i]  In fact, no one other than a white man has ever served as commissioner.[ii]  And unlike the United States, who finally elected an African American president in 2008, Major League Baseball seems to be content with another white male replacing Bud Selig at the end of his commissionership tenure in 2014.
            Jayson Stark, a popular baseball writer for ESPN, speculated as to who he believes will be in contention to serve as  Major League Baseball's next commissioner.[iii]  The list of 24 names ranges from current general managers to former president George W. Bush.[iv]  However, the otherwise encompassing list lacks the name of a single African American.[v]  Here, two tenets of Critical Race Theory become entangled with baseball and its history. 
            First,  Critical Race Theorists believe race is socially, as opposed to biologically, constructed.[vi]  Ian Haney Lopez, a leading voice of the Critical Race Theory movement, explains the lack of biological evidence of race:
"There are no genetic characteristics possessed by all blacks but not by nonblacks, similarly, there is no gene or cluster of genes common to all whites but not to nonwhites.  One's race is not determined by a single gene or gene cluster, as is, for example, sickle-cell anemia.  Nor are races marked by important differences in gene frequencies, the rates of appearances in certain gene types.  The data compiled by various scientists demonstrate, contrary to popular opinion, that intragroup differences exceed intergroup differences.  That is, greater genetic variations exists within the populations typically labeled black and white than between these populations.  This finding refutes the supposition that racial divisions reflect fundamental genetic differences."[vii] 
            Because of the lack of biological race attributes, racial stereotypes are created, molded, and changed over time as society sees fit.[viii]  These stereotypes are molded by negative images in society.[ix]  For example, during Reconstruction, society conveyed blacks as scary, primitive, and powerful.[x]  Whereas, during slavery blacks were portrayed as docile and content.[xi]  These stark differences in the images of certain time periods reflect not only that society creates racial stereotypes, but that society changes them when needed.[xii]
            Baseball has created and molded a stereotype of the African American athlete with no genetic basis whatsoever.  The socially-created African American in baseball , like in many other sports,  is a fantastic athlete on the field but limited in terms of leadership positions.[xiii]    The stereotype persists that African Americans are not organized or intelligent enough to make the tough decisions that leaders need to make.[xiv]  Such ideals are often not seen as blatant racism and are thus allowed to perpetuate the stereotypes attributed to the socially created African American sportsman.[xv]
             Kenneth Shropshire outlines three examples of prominent sports people expounding this stereotype.[xvi]  In each example the speaker assumes that they are professing a color blind fact that listeners know to be true, when in fact they are exhibiting deeply held racism.[xvii]  Additionally, each speaker implies, incorrectly, there is a biological fact underlying each racist statement, thus the social construction of African Americans in sports is further exemplified.
            First, Al Campanis, at the time a Dodgers executive, explained that it was not prejudice to say that blacks lacked the necessities to be managers, either on the field or off.[xviii]  Then, in an attempt to clear things up, Campanis described blacks as being "wonderful people", "gifted with great musculature", and "fleet of foot".[xix]          Second, Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder attempted to explain African American's athletic success as biological:
"The difference between blacks and whites goes all the way back to the Civil War when, during the slave period, the slave owner would breed his big black [man] with his big [black] woman so that he could have a big black kid--that's where it all started.  The black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way because of his thigh size and big size. [They] jump higher and run faster.
All the players are black; the only thing that the whites control is the coaching jobs."[xx]
Shropshire notes that many commentators defended Snyder's comments.[xxi]  Finally, Marge Schott's vile, purposeful, and openly racist comments are quoted, compared, and contrasted against those of Campanis and Snyder.[xxii]  Although Schott's comments are more extreme than the others, they share commonality in that the speaker believes the listener to be of the same mind set.[xxiii]
            Although comments such as these are seen as overtly racist today, a glance at the current power structure of baseball reinforces their core message, that many believe African Americans to be incapable of properly owning or running professional baseball organizations.  In addition to the lack of a prospective African American commissioner[xxiv], there are currently zero African American general managers  in Major League Baseball.[xxv]  Further, there is not a single African American principal owner of a Major League Baseball club.[xxvi]  These facts provide evidence that whites control baseball's front offices and that they are reluctant to hire African American general managers or sell clubs to African American owners.

[i] The Commissionership: A Historical Perspective, MLB.COM, (last visited March 1, 2014).
[ii] Id. 
[iii] Jayson Stark, MLB's next commissioner?, ESPN.COM (May 8, 2013, 2:23 PM),
[iv] Id. 
[v] Id. 
[vi] Ian F. Haney Lopez, The Social Construction of Race: Some Observations on Illusion, Fabrication and Choice, 29 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 1 (1994).
[vii] Id. 
[viii] Id. at 245.
[ix] Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Images of the Outsider in American Law and Culture: Can Free Expression Remedy Systemic Societal Ills?, 77 Cornell L. Rev. 1258 (1992).
[x] Id.  See also, W. E. B.  DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America (1935).
[xi] Id. 
[xii] Id. 
[xiii] Shaun Powell, Souled Out? How Blacks Are Winning and Losing in Sports, 210 (2008).
[xiv] Id. at 222.
[xv] Shropshire, supra, 21-24.
[xvi] Id.
[xvii] Id.
[xviii] Id. at 22.
[xix] Id.
[xx] Id. at 23.
[xxi] Id.
[xxii] Id. at 24.
[xxiii] Id.
[xxiv] See Supra, note II. 
[xxv] List of Major League Baseball General Managers, Wikipedia, (last visited April 13, 2014).
[xxvi] List of Major League Baseball Principal Owners, Wikipedia, (last visited April 13, 2014).

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