Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jackie Robinson’s legacy should be studied, not celebrated.


On April 15, 1947 the racial landscape of Major League Baseball was forever changed when Jackie Robinson smashed the color barrier by taking the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He planted the initial seeds of greatness that would later manifest in society and sport. Though Robinson’s historic feat took place four decades before I was conceived I'm fully aware of the magnitude of his accomplishments. Without question Robinson was champion with a warrior’s heart.

Robinson was the birth of Civil Rights Movement. He ascended 8 years before Rosa Parks decided she grew tired sitting at the back of the bus. It was 16 years before Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” and 62 years before Barack Obama got the keys to the White House.

Robinson was more than a Hall of Fame baseball player. He was a pioneer who made huge sacrifices so African Americans can enjoy the fruits of his labor. Without Robinson's efforts the likes of Alex Rodriguez wouldn't earn 28 million dollars a year for playing baseball. Oprah Winfrey wouldn't be a billionaire media mogul and Barack Obama becoming President of the United States wouldn't have been possible this soon.

While many marvel at the accomplishments of contemporary athletic stars like LeBron James, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Jimmy Rollins we tend to forget those catalysts like Robinson who paved the way. With the passage of time the accomplishments of the true role models continues to fade. Contributions made by pioneers like Robinson are meticulously being lost in the residue of selfishness and the collective ignorance of today’s professional athletes.

The only acknowledgement given to Robinson these days is having every Major League player and coach wear Jackie’s famous number 42 on April 15. To me wearing Robinson’s number is merely a symbolic gesture that does little to enlighten the ignorant.

Instead of having a tribute celebrating Robinson how about educating people of the vast contributions he made in sport and society?

How about letting the public know there was a proposed league wide boycott where if Robinson took the field in 1947 every player would strike? National League President Ford Fricke mandated that all players who boycotted would be banned from baseball as long as he was president. Because of Fricke's efforts a boycott was averted.

How about educating those who know little about the bitter cruelties Robinson endured? How about chronicling in detail his contributions he made in the face of racism on and off the field? How about Major League baseball pumping money into African American communities to entice youngsters to play the game again?
For instance, he was routinely called “nigger” by opposing players and by his own teammates initially. Pitchers purposely threw at Robinson to hurt him. Rocks were thrown at him by hostile white fans as he took the field in opposing cities.

For the first two years of his contract Robinson was forbidden to retaliate against the inhumane treatment he experienced. It was a monumental sacrifice to make because it was against his character to be docile. Robinson was a fighter who was asked to turn the other cheek. He put his manhood on hold for future African Americans to play baseball today.

Despite the bitter cruelties Robinson endured he was voted Rookie of the Year in 1947, Most Valuable Player in 1949, and won a World Series Crown in 1955. Robinson excelled in the face of racism despite its habitual presence.

In 1972 days before his death Robinson urged Major League Baseball to get African Americans in place as field managers. It didn't happen instantaneously but it happened in 1975 when the Cleveland Indians hired Frank Robinson as manager.

While most people were worried about paying Uncle Sam on April 15th I was paying proper homage to the man who made the success African Americans in society and sport enjoy today possible.

I knew people like Oprah wouldn’t have a show dedicated to Robinson nor would President Obama make meaningful note of Robinson’s accomplishments: they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for pioneers like Robinson. But their acknowledgment isn't necessary to validate Robinson's accomplishments in my world.

The real warriors know his story and that's what matters most.

1 comment:

The Daily Blonde said...

My father would have loved this post. It speaks volumes about Jackie, who was a great man. I'm so happy to find your blog. I'm not a sports fan but I do love baseball for many reasons.

I'm looking forward to reading through your archives!