Almost sixty-nine years have passed since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, but despite the progress spurred on by this historic act, the sport faces declining numbers of both black players and black fans. Chris Rock has even likened being a black baseball fan to being part of an endangered species. In an interview with Complex, Chuck D discussed why the sport he loves is becoming an increasingly foreign experience to black youth.
In the 80's, black players represented about twenty percent of the MLB. Now they represent less than eight percent. "It disturbs me because of my own personal adoration with something I was obsessed with baseball as a [teenager]. I was obsessed with the game," Chuck said when asked how he felt about the sharp decline in black players.
Chuck sees this as another symptom of American society's eagerness to jail black men. "Number one, baseball in the United States of America starts with relationship of father to son. Ya hear me? Starts with the relationship of father to son. My father played baseball with myself and my brother... When you have the eradication of the black community and the destruction of black fatherhood for whatever reasons it might be—you can say it’s a redefinition of the family but there are actual facts. Meaning what? There was 100,000 black men in prison in 1970, and there’s well over a million and a half now in U.S. prisons... If you take the father away from the son, you’re going to have a lot of missing [opportunities for] explaining how we should work together as a team..."
"The black community has been fragmented seriously, since the 1980s, for a bunch of different reasons. Be it drugs, guns, a whole bunch of areas of non-development," Chuck said. "Baseball fields were always full in black communities in the United States in the ‘50s, in the ‘60s and in the ‘70s. They were full and at the same time you’d go to the sideline and fathers would almost always outnumber the sons. You don’t see that nowhere no more."
Chuck also takes issue with people claiming that the sport is boring, or that the reason it's failed to attract the attention of young athletes is because it's not as exciting to watch as say, basketball or football. "So when people say baseball is boring, yeah it’s boring because you don’t have the time to understand, to grasp it. Don’t just say it’s wack because you don’t understand," Chuck said.
You can read the full interview, which includes more of Chuck's thoughts on how baseball has changed since he was obsessed with it as a teen, over at Complex.