MLB touts diversity but leaves Oakland, its most diverse city

Major League Baseball pushes diversity with all kinds of initiatives and talks about trying to be as inclusive as possible with many nationalities and cultures.

Yet MLB is pulling a team from the majors’ most diverse city, Oakland, questioning the sincerity of the league’s diversity efforts.

MLB can argue all it wants that relocating the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas makes more business sense – which remains a serious debate – but there’s no argument from the point of view of the diversity.

The city that has graced us with legends from Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan to Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart to trailblazers Curt Flood and Glenn Burke – and many others who began their illustrious careers on the sandlots of Oakland – is on about to lose his MLB identity because of fuzzy decision-making from all angles.

“Man, that’s gonna be history. History. I don’t care what they say in Vegas, it won’t be like Oakland,” said Shooty Babitt, a native of Oakland, a former A infielder. and current A’s scout and TV analyst. “I was drafted by the A’s in 1977, made it to the big club in 1981. Always involved in the community. I don’t care how ragged Coliseum is, that’s where I grew up idolizing Vida (Blue) and Moon (Blue Moon Odom) and Campy (Bert Campaneris), all the colored guys, the guys we dreamed of being one day. It’s sad, brother.

Research firm AdvisorSmith, using data compiled from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, ranked the nation’s most “ethnically and racially diverse” cities in 2021 and had Oakland No. 1. US News and World Report ranked Oakland second among cities with a population of at least 300,000, behind Stockton.

Las Vegas is certainly diverse but nothing to do with Oakland. The latest US Census Bureau data, from 2020, shows Oakland is 30% white and 21.3% black while Las Vegas is 46% white and 12.9% black. Oakland has seen strong growth in its Hispanic and Asian populations and other racial and ethnic groups.

Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents the 12th congressional district, including Oakland and Alameda, stressed the importance over time of locating an MLB team in Oakland.

“The impact of the A’s on the Oakland community is a metric you can’t find in any report or budget proposal,” Lee told The Chronicle. “Oakland is such a unique and diverse city. We have a passionate fanbase, a rich history, and great weather. Not to mention, the story of the black and brown superstars of the A’s has inspired countless people in our community. Representation is important, especially in a sport like baseball. There aren’t many cities like Oakland, and MLB better have a franchise here.

MLB could have done itself a big favor by telling John Fisher it’s Oakland or bust — in other words, make it work in Oakland or we’ll find someone else. It doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. Owners are free to horribly manage their teams.

Imagine if Fisher and MLB did the right thing for Oakland and stayed. Or, better yet, sold to local investors who would pull the franchise out of the hole Fisher had dug for it. Las Vegas would likely have gotten a team through the expansion while Oakland would have had a chance to revitalize, if not at Howard Terminal, then at the Coliseum site.

Rather than operating it on the 112 acres of the Coliseum or the 55 acres of the Howard Terminal, Fisher prefers the entire nine acres of the Las Vegas Strip, a small stadium in a smaller market. All that drivel about the need for a Stadium Village to accompany a stadium and generate revenue to field a competitive team was hot air, in retrospect, because there is no Stadium Village in the latest plan.

There’s no waterfront either. Another reason Fisher and Dave Kaval lobbied for Howard Terminal on the site of the Colosseum. A lot of nonsense is being joked about these days, and when it comes to diversity, MLB has had a real opportunity to deliver on its promise.

To be fair, 40.34% of players on opening day rosters are from diverse backgrounds, 30.2% of them Latinos, and the MLB World Baseball Classic in March was a resounding success. . MLB’s progress is admirable with its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and other ventures designed to bring young African Americans into the game, results demonstrated in recent drafts and on top prospect lists. .

But the fact is that only 6.2% of players on opening day rosters (including the injured list) were African American, 59 of 945 players, down from 7.2% last year. It’s not the progress MLB intended, especially in a sport that has brought us Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and countless other African-American legends.

Fisher could have made a difference in Oakland like the Giants did in San Francisco, their stadium opening in 2000 leading to the revitalization of China Basin and Mission Bay, but he quit.

Stop competing with the Giants for Bay Area bragging rights. Stop working with Oakland officials even though they said they had raised $375 million for infrastructure, far more than Fisher had first asked for and similar to what Las Vegas is willing to contribute. Leave a proud community.

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