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Civil Rights Game

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The Civil Rights Game is an annual Major League Baseball exhibition game (starting in 2007) that honors the history of civil rights in the United States and marks the unofficial end to the league's preseason. It is held at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The intent of the game is to embrace baseball's history of African-American players, as well as to generate interest for future black players, after a demographics survey revealed that the percentage of black players in the league has dwindled over the past twelve years to just 8.4 percent.[1] The survey, ironically, gave the diversity of players in Major League Baseball an A+ grade. While many were focusing on the drop in African-Americans in the sport since 1996 from 17% to 8%, overlooked was the increase in Hispanic players during that period from 20% to 29%, and in Asian and other minorities from 1% to 3%. Caucasians actually went down, from 62% to 60%.[2]

The underlying notion that blacks are not well represented in baseball ignores the fact that it's due to an increase of Hispanic and Asian players. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig commented on air during the game that the 8% total for African-Americans was a problem that needed to be looked at, yet he didn't indicate whether he would need to reduce the number of Hispanics and Asians in baseball in order to accomplish this.

Associated Press news releases focused on the drop in African-Americans, and quoted Cleveland pitcher C. C. Sabathia on the idea that baseball must do more to promote the game in inner cities, saying, "It's not just a problem — it's a crisis."[3] The articles tended not to mention that Richard Lapchick's study gave players a A+. Instead, they mentioned only that Lapchick gave baseball a B+ for racial diversity, and then cited administrative statistics which were less impressive in their diversity.

Inaugural GameEdit

The inaugural game was played on Saturday, March 31, 2007 at 5:30 PM and was broadcast nationally on ESPN and ESPNHD. It was announced by ESPN's #1 broadcast team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, with Peter Gammons serving as a field analyst (his role during Sunday Night Baseball telecasts on ESPN). The game featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians. Both teams wore uniforms reminiscent of those worn in Negro League games. The Cardinals won 5-1, receiving a solid five-inning start out of their 2006 closer Adam Wainwright, who got the win.



Despite the good intentions of Major League Baseball in instituting the game, Commissioner Bud Selig has come under heavy fire from Native Americans who feel that the involvement of the Cleveland Indians was a slap in the face to the Cherokee people who still live in the Memphis area after the infamous Trail of Tears passed through less than 200 years ago. The New York Daily News called the situation a "primer on how to inadvertently stage an ironic insult to a local and large population of Natives" and insinuated that the league has (inadvertently) sabotaged the game by inviting the Indians.[4] The popular sports blog Deadspin asked the profound question "If the Indians win, do Native Americans get civil rights?"[5] It has also been argued that the over-politicization of a sporting event is an example of political correctness gone too far.

The circumstances were also partially responsible for reenergizing the debate over the controversial Indians logo, which features a caricature of an Indian chief with bright red skin and perpetuates Native American stereotypes.

2008 GameEdit

On December 3, 2007, league officials announced details for the second annual game. It is set for March 29, 2008. The current teams that are set to play are the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets.



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