It’s been almost three weeks since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a social debate in this country that has blurred the lines of politics, sports and freedom of expression.
Since then, several NFL players to include his own teammate Eric Reid, Seattle Seahawks Jeremy Lane, and Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots have participated in their own form of silent protests.
But the Orioles star centerfielder is confused as to why no player in Major League Baseball has made a similar stand. Jones was asked why he felt no one took a stand yet, and had this to say:
“We already have two strikes against us already,’’ Baltimore Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones told USA TODAY Sports, “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.”
In case you’re wondering what two strikes he’s alluding, I would deduce he’s referring to being African-American in a sport that’s predominantly White. Essentially being a double minority.
Regardless of race whether Black or White, players in baseball like most Americans recognize the deep connection the game has with the country and don’t want to run the risk of offending tradition. This isn’t to say that other sports aren’t engrained in the American fabric, but we recognize baseball as America’s national pastime no matter how much they tweak little things here and there.
Part of what makes baseball so unique is its unwillingness to stray from tradition, sometimes to a fault, while still maintaining its historical feel.
Jones, on the other hand, attributes silence on the part of African-American players to the demographic breakdown of the sport.
So let’s delve deeper into the assertion that “baseball is a white man’s sport.” Compared to the NFL where 68% of its players are Black and basketball which 74% of its players are Black, baseball has considerably more White players at 58%.
Each year we see the initiatives that MLB rolls out to increase participation in baseball from Blacks who live in inner cities.
The sport as a whole is hurting to reach, intrigue and ultimately keep the Black demographic. Reflective of that is the mere 69 African-American players spread across 30 MLB teams on the opening day rosters.
The African-American players fortunate enough to reach the professional level are viewed as outliers who had to work twice as hard probably and therefore are probably more inclined to just be thankful they’ve reached such a plateau.
Even though the support for Kaepernick is coming sooner rather than later, does it help his cause that 68% of the league looks like him? Absolutely.
It strengthens the percentage that someone, will identify with what he’s feeling.”There’s strength in numbers” isn’t just a mantra for the Golden State Warriors, it’s a fact of life.
So the apprehension we see from MLB players, specifically Black MLB players is because they’re looking around at a league full of players and owners who probably won’t have their back and who have been fostered in a culture where respect for America has been compulsory not optional. And being an endangered species in the sport as it is you could understand why someone wouldn’t be willing to jeopardize their own wealth?
Could you imagine four of baseball’s biggest stars delivering a call to action at the ESPY’s like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul did? What would that even look like? Insert Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant and maybe Clayton Kershaw. Case you’re wondering, all White.
The NFL is widely viewed as the ultimate team sport, but much like the NBA it’s about brand. Even though no one is “above the shield” individualism is very much encouraged and allowed.
As a result, there’s a little bit more wiggle room for NFL and NBA athletes to have autonomy especially if you play marquis positions like quarterback, wide receiver or point guard.
If he could or felt that he could then he would have already.
“In these final three weeks of the regular season, during the postseason, or perhaps even on the national stage of the World Series, we’ll see if any baseball player now dares to take a stand “No one has done it, yet,’’ Jones says. “But that’s the key word here: Yet. “We will see.” says Jones.
Well Adam Jones, I challenge you to be the change you want to see. It only takes one get the conversation started, as demonstrated with Colin Kaepernick.
Jones succeeded in keeping the conversation relevant. The question now is what is he going to do to change the narrative?
Marcus Lamar is a Washington D.C.-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.