Jackie Robinson Little League & the politics of drawing the line
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports by becoming the first African American to play for a major league baseball team when he donned the uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson paved the way for other black Americans in professional sports but, buy in particular, for black baseball players who had notoriety and fame in the Negro Leagues, but did not have the ability to make the money or full-time careers that were afforded whites in the major leagues while playing in what has always been euphemistically called “America’s past-time”. The participation of African Americans began to grow, eventually rising to almost 28 percent of all major league players by 1975. However, today fewer African Americans are playing in Major League Baseball than two decades ago. When making an accounting of all dark-skinned players, the count remains as high as 20 percent, but African American participation numbers have been in a steady decline since 1975.
The Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team of Chicago, Illinois brought excitement, notoriety, and rekindled an interest in baseball within the African American community that we haven’t seen for decades when they won the U.S. Championship of Little League Baseball in 2014. What a story! An all black little league baseball team front and center on the national stage bringing pride to a community that has had its share of tragic news stories. A team of youngsters who worked hard and dedicated themselves tirelessly to becoming the best in the land, now reaping the fruits of their labor and uplifting the spirit and psyche of an entire community as they, hand over hand, lifted the trophy of champions and were invited to visit the White House to shake the hand of President Barack Obama. It was a storybook ending. However, due to some arbitrary lines drawn by political elites with no common or actual interest in our communities, the adult overseers of this Jackie Robinson West Championship Team overstepped their boundaries by allowing players (actually one player) who lived on the other side of the arbitrary line to play on the team when he should not have been allowed to do so. Because of this oversight by the gatekeepers, these young accomplished superstars have been stripped of a title that they legitimately won. They beat Nevada’s team on the field and nobody can ever take that away from them. Unfortunately, they have been stripped of their title and their trophy. Whether or not these events will forever change how these young boys look at baseball, or if it ultimately affects their perceptions of fairness, equality and truth will not be known for some years to come. What is true is that these kids are being punished because of things that were beyond their control and were not their fault. After all is said and done, it cannot help but be a defining moment in their lives. The consequences of stepping into history can be both rewarding and incredibly painful. Hopefully, the team and the individual players have a community, a family, and leaders with integrity that can and will help them to navigate their way through the disappointment, confusion and clear injustice of the unfortunate series of events that have left them without a trophy and without the recognition they legitimately deserve for the championship they won…but didn’t.
Up Next Week: Women doing the Work without the Compensation