Dear Major League Baseball,
Every April 15th, you honor a pioneer of your fabled pastime, Jackie Robinson. You spend what I am assuming are generous amounts of money holding ceremonies at every stadium with players adorning the now-forever-retired 42. I remember watching the first Jackie Robinson Day. I remember sitting in front of my television (without a cell phone to stare into), beaming with pride having watched the ceremony for a man who endured horrid acts of racism and countless amounts of death threats simply for wanting to play a game alongside his fellow citizens. Seeing every player wear the number 42 as a symbol of reverence to the former infielder made me proud.
Then I got older. I realized ceremonies are just that, ceremonies. Simple shows of remembrance of things past. Looking at what Mr. Robinson was subjected to over seven decades ago became harder and harder for me, growing up as a black man in a country that hasn’t quite learned how to love us. Jackie Robinson’s battles were just as poignant as his ball play. His past conflicts only made me reflect on my grandfather, who also lived during that same period. He, as all black men back then, had their lives threatened for the very same reason as Jackie Robinson: simply wanting to exist. It’s horrible to imagine living in a time where one is subjected to harassment based on their skin color, wouldn’t you agree?
Enter Monday, May 1st. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Orioles outfielder Adam Jones is racially taunted and nearly assaulted while playing baseball. The fact that seventy years later people haven’t evolved beyond the depths of racism is appalling. What’s even worse is that, currently, people are allowed to be repeat offenders. Giving people a mulligan on being racist sends a very disturbing level of tone deafness to people of color. It also may very well explain why there are only eight percent of major leaguers that are black.
So, I’ve got an idea.
In addition to the annual celebration of your first African-American player, I propose that Major League Baseball immediately institute a lifetime ban on every fan caught making racist remarks towards ballplayers. What better way to honor Jackie Robinson than by eliminating the threats he had to endure while playing your game?
I know campaigns are a big deal and coming up with catchy names can be a drain, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Simply call the campaign “Strike Out Hate”. Need a tagline, you say? Don’t sweat it! You can simply say, “Hate Has No Home Here.” (See what I did there? Home, home? Bonus points for the baseball double entendre!)
Ceremonies and intentions don’t foster change. Action does. You’ve already gone on record for calling this behavior unacceptable, so take what you know is the right step and create a zero-tolerance policy on racism.
To be honest, it’s past time.