Vox – When it comes to professional basketball and football, black players make up the majority. Seventy-four percent and 68 percent of athletes are black in the NBA and NFL respectively. In the WNBA, black women make up 71.7 percent of the players. So while racial disparities persist when it comes to team owners in these leagues — no black person has ever owned an NFL team and there are nearly no black owners for all three men’s leagues in basketball and football — players can at least protest on the grounds that they know they’re collectively indispensable.
By contrast, black baseball players are largely on their own. African Americans make up only 8 percent of players in major league baseball, according to USA Today.
This week Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said, “We already have two strikes against us already, so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can’t kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don’t need us. Baseball is a white man’s sport.”
Jones is one of only a handful of black players in the MLB, but underrepresentation
is a trend that goes far past the players. The opportunities for latino players and black players alike are scarce when their playing days are over. In a conversation with ESPN’s Howard Bryant for his piece titled Don’t expect protests in baseball — it’s a white man’s game by design David Ortiz said, “The opportunities, they speak for themselves. Compare the number of Latinos with the number of Latino managers, you know what I’m saying? Sometimes I get so frustrated about it. But you can’t wait for anyone to give you something. Sometimes I tell the young guys, ‘Be smart. Save, because there won’t be anything here for you when it’s done. Make as much money as you can in the game, and get your black ass out.”
Soon we will be entering what I consider the sweet spot of the annual sports news cycle. Once October rolls around the NFL is in the swing of its regular season, the MLB is entering the playoffs, the NHL and NBA are on the verge of kicking off regular season play. There is only so much time for each of the four major American sports to be covered enough to reach a mass audience, especially in an election year. The discussion of how to present yourself during the playing of the national anthem originally brought to the forefront by San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a story that has life being breathed into it by news outlets across the spectrum and has even led to President Obama making a statement to reiterate Kaepernick’s constitutional right to kneel during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner amidst the uproar.
Kaepernick’s protest intersects with the hot button political topics regarding the status of race relations in America, and the history of protests in the NBA point towards it gaining more momentum when their season tips off. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo predicted that Kaepernick’s protest will carry over into the NBA season. And why wouldn’t it? All of the most prominent NBA players are black, and they can’t be told to be quiet as some media members have tried to do with Kaepernick. The likes of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have shown that they will use their popularity and the platform they have earned to speak out on the issues of racial profiling, take their message at the 2016 ESPY’s for example. ESPN allowed them to take the stage to open up the program, which should be taken as a sign of things to come. Kaepernick is just the beginning, these discussions are only getting started.