MLB Commits Up to $150M to Players Alliance to Support Diversity Initiatives

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 12, 2021

DENVER, CO - JULY 11:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announces the picks during the 2021 Major Leauge Baseball Draft at Bellco Theater at Colorado Convention Center on Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday the league plans to donate at least $100 million—and up to $150 million—over the next 10 years to The Players Alliance.

The Players Alliance is a nonprofit that seeks to improve the diversity within baseball at all levels and "provide greater opportunities for the Black community, both in our game and the places we live in, play in, and care about most."

Last September, MLB partnered with the MLB Players Association to pledge $10 million to the organization. Among the goals behind the donation was providing financial aid and community services to the Black community, more support for baseball programs in schools and community centers and outreach efforts to raise the number of Black youth and young adults in the game.

Former New York Yankees star CC Sabathia is the vice president for The Players Alliance. In his memoir, Till the End, he wrote that the relative lack of Black players in MLB can make it difficult to publicly advocate for social justice causes.

"That’s why you’ve seen more Black NFL and NBA players speak out than MLB players—there’s strength in numbers," Sabathia wrote. "There were plenty of years in Cleveland when I was the only Black player on the roster; New York was better, but even with the Yankees, most seasons I was one of a maximum of four or five Black players on the 24-man roster."

The lack of diversity from the grassroots of baseball on up through MLB has long been an issue.

For young players trying to get into the game, Washington Nationals outfielder Josh Bell told Al Jazeera America's Ray Glier in 2014 the pursuit was becoming cost-prohibitive for some.

"Think about the demographics of the black population as a whole and how poorly we are doing as a whole as a race," he said. "It is a lot easier to go outside and run some drills with the football rather than paying for hitting lessons or pitching lessons and going to this showcase or that showcase.

“Baseball is one of those sports that is really expensive, and the showcases are starting earlier and earlier. The competition is getting stiffer, so the need for some sort of training outside of the hitting tee in the backyard comes more and more at an earlier age."

In explaining his decision to sit out the 2020 season, two-time All-Star Ian Desmond said he had visited the Little League fields he had played on in Sarasota, Florida, and that they had become "run down" and "neglected."

Desmond went on to say he thought playing baseball provides benefits for those who participate even if they don't go on to have long careers.

Manfred's announcement follows similar moves in the NFL and NBA.

The NFL made a 10-year, $250 million commitment to the Players Coalition in June 2020, and the NBA Board of Governors provided $300 million in funding to launch the NBA Foundation two months later.