Major League Baseball has a smaller percentage of Black players now than it has had in any year since the early 1990s, according to a report released this week by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.
The report comes amid a widespread push in sports and other industries throughout the U.S. to expand diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. While TIDES’s latest report focuses on diversity in the MLB, the institute publishes similar reports on the NFL, NBA, WNBA, college sports and more.
In the MLB, the report said 38 percent of all players as of Opening Day 2022 were players of color, a 0.4 percent increase over 2021’s numbers. About 28.5 percent of those players were Hispanic or Latino, 1.9 percent were Asian players, and less than 1 percent were Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Native American.
While Black players made up about 18 percent of all MLB rosters when TIDES first began assessing the league’s demographic data in 1991, Black players represented only 7.2 percent of all MLB players at the start of the current season.
The league’s percentage of Black players “has been a serious concern for many years,” the report said.
TIDES Director Richard Lapchick, the report’s main author, said that while much has changed in the sport since Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough made history in 1947, more and faster change is needed.
“This marks the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in MLB,” Lapchick said in the report’s executive summary. “His actions continue to have an impact not only on baseball but on America as a whole.”
The report said its findings demonstrate “that baseball has improved in some areas but must improve across all categories and hasten the pace of change.”
Officially titled “The 2022 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball,” the report said it referenced 2020 Census data while grading the MLB on its hiring practices. While the MLB was awarded a B for racial hiring, it got a C+ for gender hiring, leaving the league with an overall B- grade. Gender hiring had improved when compared with the 2021 season, but the report said the MLB’s grade for racial hiring was down.
TIDES’s overall grades for hiring diversity cover the MLB’s players, central office, team managers and coaches, general managers and administration officials. Focusing specifically on racial hiring of baseball players, the report gave the MLB an A, since 38 percent of the league’s players are players of color. In comparison, the report said 2020 Census data showed racial minorities constituted about 42.2 percent of the U.S. population.
Despite the declining percentage of Black MLB players, the report said researchers have seen “some signs of hope” in recent years of the MLB Draft, with the first round of the draft including 56 Black players—about 17.5 percent of all athletes included—from 2012 through last year. The report also acknowledged steps the league has taken to boost its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts over the last few years, which included the MLB’s announcement last summer that it is investing $100 million over the next decade in the nonprofit Players Alliance, in part to provide support and encouragement to a greater number of young Black players.
Billy Bean, the senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at the MLB, also pointed to the league’s work with the Players Alliance in a statement about the TIDES report shared with the Associated Press.
“While we would like the number of Black players on opening day rosters to be higher, there are signs of optimism,” Bean said. Moving forward, he said the MLB “will continue to support partnerships like the Players Alliance, and invest in these effective programs, as we look to build a sustainable pipeline of Black players at all levels of our game.”
Newsweek reached out to the MLB for further comment.