Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackie Robinson’s legacy continues to fade

On April 15, 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson galloped on the field wearing his Dodger blue uniform thereby smashing baseballs white’s only club in Major League baseball.

April 13th center fielder Torrii Hunter made the following statement regarding the celebration of Jackie Robinson’s accomplishment:

"This is supposed to be an honor, and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you've got entire teams doing it. I think we're killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie's number, not just because it looks cool. "

In my opinion baseball has long lost its luster and hue. The game Robinson courageously integrated 61 years ago and help build has nearly become the way it was before he broke the color barrier and that’s lily-white.

Jackie’s legacy has been reduced to players wearing his famous number 42 in his honor. Many who dawn the jersey know little about the man or his legend.

How would Jackie Robinson feel about the Houston Astros players not having one African American on its roster last year yet have the team wear his number in tribute?

Major league baseball is a reflection of the racism and lack of inclusion many African Americans face today. Just 8 percent of the players in the league are African American. You call two African American general managers and just three field managers progress?

Jackie Robinson was the Civil Rights Movement during the 1940’s. He was before Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. During his nine-year career as a player and in retirement Robinson was at the forefront of a movement that demanded equality from those who tried to deny it. He was a champion, a true pioneer and credit to the human race.

Robinson went through a lot of bitter cruelties in order to create opportunities for future generation of African Americans. Robinson was routinely called a nigger, spit at, and verbally assaulted by opposing players. Despite the blatant opposition Robinson persevered in beginning one of Americans true pioneers.

How has Americas Pastime paid Robinson back for his Herculean efforts?

Just like in society, the white hierarchy in sports has turned its back on the African American baseball player thereby negating Robinson’s work. The game Robinson played so well and broke down barriers for has done little to reach out to the African American community.

Why?

First off, African American youngsters don’t see anyone who looks like them excelling in the game. They see very few athletes on the field they can identify with as players and field managers. The front office and ownership opportunities reflect those African Americans often see in mainstream America.

Back in the day baseball was the sport of choice in many African American neighborhoods-now it’s not. As a youngster I gravitated towards baseball because the game was fun. I played Little League at Weisser Park because I identified with many of the players who looked like me.

Now everybody wants to be like Lebron James, LaDanian Tomlinson, or 50 Cent. The capacities the latter superstars occupy African Americans have achieved a measure of acclaim, acceptance, and affluence in their respected arenas. Hence the NBA and NFL respectively are approximately 78 and 65 percent African American and many youngsters love hip-hop. Such isn’t the case in baseball.

Like Christmas, celebrating Jackie Robinson has become somewhat of a mockery as the true meanings of his achievements have become lost. What Jackie Robinson did as an athlete and activist was terribly important.

This is an occasion that deserves worthy acknowledgment from the league Robinson help build: players’ wearing his famous number 42 jersey isn’t enough.

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