MLB race and gender report card shows progress still needed

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

This past Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Every player in MLB wore his No. 42 that day.

Earlier this month, on April 6, was the 30th anniversary of the infamous "Nightline" interview with then-Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis, who told host Ted Koppel that black athletes "may not have some of the necessities" to be major league managers or general managers. Campanis, who had played with Robinson in the minor leagues, resigned two days later because of the controversial remarks.

Last month, I was invited to accompany Rachel Robinson, wife of the late Jackie Robinson, to the Jackie Robinson Foundation Gala. It was a great event that showcased the dozens of Jackie Robinson Scholars who have received grants toward college expenses. I have been blessed to be friends with Rachel, 94, for more than 40 years. She is a remarkable woman. Each year she gets even more passionate and committed to her husband's vision for change.

Jackie Robinson's dream was to witness more diversity and inclusion in Major League Baseball. He hoped to see this change not only on the diamond but in managerial and front office positions.

Today, we released the results of the 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball. Overall, the results show how far Major League Baseball has to go to achieve Robinson's vision.

MLB received a B for racial hiring practices and a C for gender hiring practices, resulting in an overall grade of a C-plus. The grades for both racial and gender hiring practice decreased from last year's report. This is, in part, because of our updated grading scale, which is now more reflective of current United States demographic data and will be used in all of our 2017 reports.

One glaring finding of this study is the diminishing number of African-Americans in Major League Baseball, on the field and in management roles. Jackie Robinson undoubtedly would be disappointed with these statistics, but would be pleased to see the increase of Latino and Asian players.

MLB's player data presents mixed results. This year's report contains the highest percentage of Latino players (31.9 percent) and total players of color (42.5) in MLB history. Yet this encouraging finding comes when MLB also is reporting its lowest percentage of players who are black, African-American or African-Canadian (7.7) since we began these studies in 1991.

In 1991, 18 percent of all players were African-American and 14 percent were Latino, a notable change in comparison to the current demographics of MLB rosters.

The lack of African-American professional baseball players is a reflection of the demographics of collegiate baseball and opportunities for African-American youth to play the game. If you are a young African-American athlete trying to decide what sport to pursue, you find superstars who might inspire your decision to play the sport far more often in the NBA and NFL.

While MLB has made enormous efforts to create opportunities for young African-American, most urban youth still struggle to figure out how and where to play baseball. The obstacles can range from too few playing fields to possibly not having enough savings to buy equipment or pay fees to join a youth travel team.

The overall effect is that the pipeline feeding African-American players into the major leagues is even less populated than Major League Baseball itself. Less than 5 percent of Division I players at the college level are African-American. Meanwhile, African-Americans make up nearly 80 percent of the players in the NBA and nearly 70 percent of the players in the National Football League, and African-Americans dominate as well at the college level in those sports.

Tony Reagins, MLB senior vice president, oversees MLB's youth programs, which are especially aimed at increasing the participation of diverse youth in organized baseball. In 2016, more than 175,000 young people between ages 5 and 18 participated in youth baseball and softball opportunities across nearly 200 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) leagues throughout the U.S., as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean. As a result of years of the African-American Breakthrough Series programming, 140 participants have been selected in the MLB draft, including nearly 40 in 2015 and 2016 combined, the most ever in a two-year span.

The lack of racial diversity is alarmingly among MLB managers and general managers. Currently, there are only three managers of color: Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals and Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox. That is seven below the high of 10 managers of color in both 2002 and 2009.

There were no people of color who served as CEO or team president. Among the presidents of baseball operations/general managers, there were four people of color. Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers is the only Latino GM in MLB. He also is the first Cuban-born GM in MLB history. Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi is one of two Muslim executives in MLB and the first Muslim to be a GM of any U.S. pro sport franchise. Michael Hill, president of baseball operations for the Miami Marlins, is the son of a Cuban mother and African-American father. Kenny Williams, who is African-American, is executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox.

MLB had the largest number of GMs of color in 2009 and 2010 when there were five. MLB is way behind both the NBA and NFL. There is no doubt Jackie would be frustrated about these terrible numbers.

MLB's central office has the best record in MLB for racial hiring practices. Commissioner Rob Manfred's staff consists of 28.1 percent people of color.

The percentage of people of color among team coaches is 44.3 percent and most closely mirrors the percentage of people of color among players. My hope is that with this many coaching positions being held by people of color, more will get managerial and general manager positions in the near future. Additionally, I believe that this percentage of coaches of color will help players of color see themselves in these roles in the future.

Regarding women in baseball, the MLB central office staff, senior administrators and team professional administrators include the highest percentages of women. These percentages are 29.3, 27.0, and 28.1 for each area, respectively. I don't think this is something that Jackie Robinson would have imagined during his time, but at this point it is an area that still needs improvement.

There are no people of color or women who are team presidents. As we commonly see in upper management levels in collegiate and professional sports, MLB team vice presidents are overwhelmingly white males. This category consists of 11.7 percent people of color and 16.3 percent women. In order for sports as whole to become more diverse, it is critical these senior leadership positions include more people of color and women. As this occurs we will undoubtedly see positive changes in the demographics of managers and general managers in MLB.

Jackie Robinson is a legend who will never be forgotten, and I hope that as we mark the 70th anniversary of him breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, MLB is able to reflect and continue to honor his legacy by carrying out his dream of diversity and inclusion throughout the sport.

Richard E. Lapchick is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management graduate program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of 16 books and the annual racial and gender report card, and is the president of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. He has been a regular commentator for ESPN.com on issues of diversity in sport. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook. Mark Mueller, Todd Currie and Destini Orr contributed to this column.