Connecticut Law Review Volume 44 - Issue 1

Baseball’s Accidental Racism: The Draft, African-American Players, and the Law

Major League Baseball has recently experienced two puzzling upheavals. First, the number of foreign players has grown, to twenty-eight percent of all players. At the same time, the fraction of African-American players has declined, and is now at its lowest level in more than thirty years. The solution to the puzzle lies within the league itself. In 1965, MLB instituted two regulations that penalized domestic players: the draft and age minimums. Because the regulations applied only to U.S. players, teams shifted their scouting and development resources to foreign countries. Our empirical analysis, using a new data set, shows that the shift has caused growth in the numbers of foreign MLB players and a decline in U.S. players, especially harming disadvantaged groups such as African-Americans.
The regulations violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in two ways. First, because they explicitly burden only U.S. players, they constitute intentional discrimination based on national origin. Second, because the regulations‟ impact falls disproportionately on African-Americans, the league has engaged in unlawful racial discrimination. The appropriate remedy is that the draft and age limits should be eliminated.

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