The ReCap by Melissa Nappi: 4.18.2018 Podcast / by Jacqueline Parke

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Brett Estrella, Report Coordinator at The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at University of Central Florida, stops by to discuss Major League Baseball’s score on the Racial and Gender Report Card. Michael Chiaradio, CEO and Chairman of the American Softball Association (“ASBA”), discusses his hopes for an all-female professional softball league.

MLB Diversity Report Card

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (“TIDES”) released a diversity report that examined the minority hiring practices of Major League Baseball.  David noted that “The report shows racial hiring is a B+ — up from last year. Gender hiring was at a C — up by just one point from last year — leading to an overall grade of a C+.”  

David:   “The numbers can say a lot of things, but most of the information contained in your (TIDES) report is self-reported... are there any safeguards in place to insure the numbers reported to you are accurate and not getting inflated?” 

Brett Estrella, a Masters student at University of Central Florida, explained: “Each of the clubs that the HR staffs reports that are sent to the Central Office in New York are accountable to the government.”

While the numbers are improving in both race and gender they are still nowhere near where they ought to be.  “The percentages have shifted and our grading system has changed in the last year to reflect the changing demographics of the United States,” Brett explained. “The central league office has better numbers in hiring women and people of color while the teams seem to be lagging behind.”

David: “Do these numbers reflect the pressure put on the Central Office to hire more diverse people or is it just a matter of the demographic of the area?” 

Brett: “I think that the Central Office is where the message comes from and they want to model those diverse hiring practices. As for the teams we don’t get the actual team data from each individual teams just the averages from the MLB, but that would be an interesting study to consider.”

Brett continues,

“The MLB has the most diverse talent pool of any sport, but 42.5% are players of color. The only thing to be miffed about is that the percentage of African-American players has fallen. With their grassroots programs like RBI, which is about bringing baseball back to inner cities...”  Brett continued, “Another program aimed at African-American youth is the Urban Youth Academy that deals with making sure that the game is accessible...”

It’s interesting to note that Major League Baseball cites the reason for the African American decline is because of dark-skinned Hispanics being mischaracterized as black. “The decline over the decades also deserves some context. Though baseball's peak African-American population is often cited at 27 percent in the mid-1970s, that number was inflated by the inclusion of dark-skinned players from Latin American countries -- a mischaracterization uncovered several years ago in research by Mark Armour of SABR.”  MLB concedes that, “…the distinction between today's figure and what Armour determined to be the actual peak (18.7 percent in 1981), as well as the steady decline from the 17.2-percent figure in 1994, is still striking. And MLB has made many efforts to address the factors -- societal and otherwise -- that have contributed to that decline.” (Article here)

Brett turned his attention to the lack of women in baseball. “I am all for women coaching, but how realistic is it to include gender in the coaching category?”  He explains, “90% of the coaches, or if not more on field, are males — there aren’t a lot of female coaches out there…I don’t want to discount it in the future and say that it is unrealistic…” He points out that “There are three women coaching with the Astros, Indians, and Mets — all have women on field… it is a male dominated sport and…in coaching where a majority of coaches played the game and played at a pretty high level…which right there (creates) a barrier of entry to women because of the barriers in participation.”

Brett also noted that other leagues out shine Major League Baseball with respect to the hiring of minorities.  “Baseball actually lags behinds the other major leagues… with an overall grade of C+/B- (MLB) lags behind the NBA who received an A-, NFL who got a B, and the MLS got a B+.”

The TIDES report doesn’t provide recommendations to the leagues as to better their score, but the scores can lead to programs that increase diversity hiring. For more information on the TIDES study, please visit their website at www.tides.org. 

American Softball Association: Are we ready for a women’s softball pro team?

In keeping with our theme of gender equality in sports — Michael Chiaradio, CEO of ASBA, stopped by to discuss his new league and the goals for the inaugural season.

Michael isn’t a typical CEO — he played independent minor league baseball that exposed him to real life experiences on the field that he brings to his softball league.  

Michael explains, “There are great athletes out there who don’t see any viable professional options. Girls go to college and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and make academic decisions or just fizzle out — it’s not a priority.” He continues, “Whereas for me (as a man) whatever school or team I played for, everyone thought they could get drafted or play at a high level. That is something we have to do with women…”

The most important thing about the ASBA is that they are looking to spread the wealth unlike other professional leagues. “We are going to have one standard base pay and give the same bonus opportunities. I was looking over MLB’s collective bargaining agreement and the teams have far too much autonomy and I knew that was no way to grow the league. I think we’re more towards the NFL collective bargaining agreement which gives the governing powers more control over the teams."  Michael continues, "We are giving (women) the ownership shares and that is my macro solution to getting product out there and growing the sport professionally.  This is about giving a fighting wage to players and expanding the boundaries of women’s sports,” explained Michael.

“We are the Netflix’s of softball… we are also developing an app that is going to go right on Xbox and PlayStation in order to target the young folks.”  Draft day for the league is June 9th and Opening Day is June 15th in Mobile, Alabama. 

The full interview is available below. For more information on ASBA and/or to support, go to their website at www.asbasoftball.com.

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