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Little League Baseball released a statement Monday addressing an incident in which white players placed cotton from the inside of a stuffed animal onto the head of a Black player, acknowledging it “could be perceived as racially insensitive,” though “there was no ill-intent,” per TMZ Sports.
According to Bleacher Report, the incident in question happened during ESPN’s coverage of Sunday’s Little League Classic game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox.
Unbothered, the white commentators watched on, dismissing it as “Little Leaguers being little leaguers” and later added “Why not right?” While the incident was casually regarded as a good natured good time, the only people seemingly smiling in the video were the white boys adding cotton to his hair while the Black boy stoically sat there as the butt of their joke, seemingly frozen by fear, confusion, or discomfort.
What kind of person even thinks to remove stuffing from a toy animal to add it to someone’s hair? Probably the same kind of people who once tarred and feathered Black people too.
Many social media users also responded negatively to the footage, prompting Little League to address the matter.
“During the broadcast of the MLB Little League Classic, a Midwest player was shown with filling from a stuffed animal given away at the game on his head. After speaking with the team, as well as reviewing photos, multiple players on the Midwest Region team were taking part in this while enjoying the game. As only one player appeared on the broadcast, Little League International understands that the actions shown could be perceived as racially insensitive. We have spoken with the player’s mother and the coaches, who have assured us that there was no ill-intent behind the action shown during the broadcast.”
It’s pastime for Baseball to do better.
If the incident had no malice or ill intent behind it, why was he singled out? Why couldn’t literally any other player on the team sit there and have his teammates play the innocent joke on him? Excusing and allowing blatant racism is one of the many reasons Black folks stopped watching baseball years ago and its popularity has wained ever since.
Incidents like this do not happen on AAU basketball courts throughout the country, nor do they occur at pop warner football games. However, the sport of baseball, who allowed racist owner Tom Yawkey and his Boston Red Sox team (which were the last team to integrate forced by government intervention) and its fanbase, players, and owners to behave as poorly as possible and then claim white fragility and the purest intentions once confronted.
Baseball has always been a good ol’ boys club.
In 2021, Major League Baseball handed down a one-game suspension and undisclosed fine to Josh Donaldson, a New York Yankees third baseman who referred to Black competitor Tim Anderson as “Jackie,” a reference to Jackie Robinson that Anderson viewed as racist. MLB Senior Vice President Michael Hill called the remark “disrespectful and in poor judgment” regardless of its intent, in a statement.
Annually on April 15, each MLB team, including the Boston Red Sox, celebrate Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier in 1947 by wearing his number #42 throughout the league. On its face it appears like an honorable tribute, however, it was also those same Boston Red Sox who once denied Robinson after working out for them before he would eventually land in Brooklyn as a Dodger and have a historic career.
Accountability is the only way things will shift, from every level of competition, the sport of baseball has allowed and permitted racism and simply excused it just as the commentators did while watching the Little League game on Sunday.
According to ESPN, the number of Black players at the highest level has continued to drop. Only 7.2% of the players on MLB Opening Day rosters this season were Black, down from 7.6% in 2021 and from 18.7% in 1981. Black fan engagement along with player participation in the sport has seen a huge dip over the years and incidents like this continue to remind us why America’s favorite pastime was never meant for us.