I wanted to see what they’d do. I decided to be patient, so I waited.
But, even after ESPN came out and gave a weak response by saying “We understand the sensitivities and are in touch with Little League organizers about the situation,” in a statement because Sunday Night Baseball’s Karl Ravech made light of a flagrantly racist incident by saying “That’s just Little Leaguers being Little Leaguers,” I realized that I’d given grace to people that didn’t deserve it.
You already know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it by now. The video of a team at the Little League World Series where white players are putting cotton in a Black teammate’s hair.
Sidebar: This is why critical race theory is needed. Because apparently, white people don’t understand, or care, about the long and gruesome history that African-Americans have with cotton.
Back to the story. Now, TMZ will show you that there were photos of a white kid that also had cotton in his hair.
To that I say, “So, what!”
According to NBC News, a LLWS spokesperson wrote in a statement that they get that the incident “could be perceived as racially insensitive,” but that they feel assured that “there was no ill-intent behind the action shown during the broadcast.” And according to the team — full of white players — they had “absolutely no ill-intent or racial motivations.”
Believing that they can define and police racism is something that far too many white people feel is their birthright. It’s very similar to the way they love to comment on people of color’s hair.
Despite how much baseball culture loves to remind African-Americans of how much we’re unwanted in America’s pastime, this was an opportunity for LLWS to actually do something right. But the mistake in this was mine, in hoping that they would do something they’re incapable of doing.
Back in April, only 7.2 percent of African-American-born players made it on Opening Day rosters this season — which was even lower than the 7.6 percent from 2021. It was also the first time in 63 years that the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t have an African-American player on their Opening Day roster. But what makes this even more disrespectful, is that all of this occurred during a season in which MLB is supposed to be “celebrating” the fact that it’s been 75 years since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
In 2018, the Atlanta Braves had a “talking to” with Ronald Acuña Jr. because he had his hat cocked and the “A” wasn’t visible during an interview. “The Braves want Acuna to wear his hat straight and maintain a professional appearance while in uniform,” read a quote from a story from MLB.com about the incident at the time.
And never forget that in 2014, Jackie Robinson West — an all-black inner-city Little League team from Chicago — who captured the heart of the nation had their title stripped away because they “knowingly violated residency rules.” You didn’t misread that last sentence. A tournament that features souped-up local All-Star teams decided to take a title away from little Black boys as if they were the only team in Little League history to have “residency issues.”
Much like the country, America’s pastime was founded on racism. From the Little League World Series to the college game to the Major Leagues, incidents like these continue to happen because it’s “just part of the game.” And once you realize that kids aren’t even shielded from hate while playing this game, you immediately understand why so few of us make it to the majors or even want to.