This weekend in Atlanta, Major League Baseball will hold its fifth annual Civil Rights Game, highlighted by a weekend of celebration and discussion of racial diversity in the sport. The intent of the game is to "embrace baseball's history of African-American players."
It will be a moment of blatant irony, that at the beginning of this celebration of diversity the Braves will welcome back pitching coach Roger McDowell, who is now infamous for his bigoted remarks. Here is MLB embracing the game's history and hardship of inclusion during the last great struggle for equality and civil rights, when McDowell's actions represent the ignorance of this country's current struggle with equality and civil rights.
The new struggle for equality may not be as "black and white" as it was last century, but the need for baseball to take a leading role in the proliferation of tolerance and inclusion is just as important. Baseball has the opportunity to launch a new frontier in the struggle for equality, just as it celebrates all that it did during the last struggle. Bud Selig has the opportunity to start a dialogue about how we deal with sexual orientation in sports.
Sadly, though, he won't. This will be the scripted celebration of "racial" diversity, and nothing more. The time will come that a known gay baseball player will reside in a Major League locker room, and the reactions of other players to this event will inevitably define baseball as tolerant or intolerant. Maybe talking about these things now will lessen the shock when it actually happens, and will better prepare players and teach them how to act. Baseball recognizes the need to send McDowell to sensitivity training, but only after the damage has been done. Simply reacting to incidents like this is no way to lead.
No, this new battle for equality should not be the focus of this weekend, but it should be a part of it. If a moment like this cannot be used to discuss this, then when is the right time.
This weekend baseball will celebrate its history of diversity and inclusion, while ignoring the lessons learned from that struggle, and missing the opportunity to expand and build upon the meaning of civil rights.