The new interim president of the NAACP belittled baseball’s
efforts to boost black participation, chastising the sport in a letter Tuesday
to commissioner Bud Selig.
Baseball announced an agreement last month with KPMG in
which the company will give $1 million annually to MLB’s Reviving Baseball in
Inner Cities (RBI) program. Dennis Hayes called it “a small step.”
“I hope that MLB will start listening to current and
former African-American baseball players about their disappointment in the
dwindling number of young blacks who are being coached and trained to enter the
game that they love,” Hayes wrote. “They believe, just like the NAACP
believes, that if we don’t do something now, African-American players will
become extinct when it comes to Major League Baseball.”
A study by the University
of Central Florida’s Institute for
Diversity and Ethics in Sports said 8.4 percent of major league players last
season were black, the lowest level in at least two decades.
MLB has been working to reverse that trend. In March, St.
Louis and Cleveland
played in an exhibition Civil Rights Game organized by MLB that drew attention
to the problem. Part of the proceeds went to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Hayes wrote that he “watched with amazement at how
funding for baseball programs has found its way to the Dominican Republic,
Puerto Rico and other countries.”
Jimmie Lee Solomon, an executive vice president in the
commissioner’s office, was surprised by Hayes’ letter.
“I wish sometimes we would all get together and do more
constructively, sit down and talk more about what we really want to achieve and
not grandstand,” Solomon said.
Hayes took over as president of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People when Bruce Gordon resigned in March. In a
telephone interview, Hayes wouldn’t address Solomon’s contention that he was
trying to attract attention rather than try to find solutions.
“Ours is an open letter to invite Major League Baseball
to allow us to be helpful, if we can,” Hayes said in a telephone
interview. “It’s our game, too.”
– Associated Press
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