As with any employer, sports organizations have a duty to provide an environment free from any form of racial discrimination. Athletes, officials, other employees and patrons should be able to enjoy the sport itself, free from mistreatment based on race, ethnicity or national origin.
Unfortunately, this ideal isn’t always the reality. An alleged example of this has surfaced recently in a racial discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) filed by one of its veteran umpires. Angel Hernandez filed a lawsuit claiming he has repeatedly been overlooked for career advancement, with opportunities going to less-qualified white employees.
Problems began with new MLB executive
Hernandez was born in Cuba and has been an umpire with MLB since 1993. He was included in higher-profile games, such as the 2002 and 2005 World Series, but noticed a change when Joe Torre was named MLB chief baseball officer in 2011. His lawsuit claims that umpire crews at each World Series since Torre was hired have been mostly all-white, except for one member who worked the 2011 and 2015 series.
Of the 92 umpires on MLB’s current roster, ten are Hispanic or African-American. Even if World Series umpiring crews rotate each year, this should reflect more diversity than recent years have yielded.
Promotions have gone to white umpires
In addition to disparities in World Series crew assignments, Hernandez also alleges that he has been unfairly blocked from becoming crew chief, a promotion that would advance his career with the MLB, increase his wages and transition his employment from temporary to permanent status. According to the lawsuit, all 23 of the crew chief promotions since 2000 have been awarded to white umpires.
A pattern of racism in sports
This alleged racial discrimination is far from an isolated incident in the world of sports. Last September, a racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against NASCAR, accusing the organization of preventing African-American drivers and teams from competing. The plaintiff, Diversity Motorsports Racing LLC, is seeking an injunction to require NASCAR and its parent company, International Speedway Corp, to “fully integrate the African-American community.”
In 2016, racism also seemed to run rampant in other sports organizations, from professional to school-based teams. In fact, the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sports found that acts of racism in sports tripled in the U.S. from 11 in 2015 to 31 in 2016. The problem isn’t isolated to this country either, as there were 104 reported incidents internationally in 2016.