Baseball's executive council, responding to pressure from civil rights groups, has approved a series of minority initiatives recommended by the sport's equal opportunity committee and has given that group unspecified authority to police the clubs to ensure success of the program, Bud Selig, the executive council chairman, said Monday.
"Baseball has made great progress in minority hiring over the last six years," Selig said. "This program is broader and more diverse than anything we've tried before, and will ensure, through the minority vending components, that more jobs and therefore more money is generated for minority group members."
The eight-point program continues to emphasize minority hiring, the use of minority businesses, improved marketing aimed at correcting "the low level of minority attendance," an attempt by clubs with multiple owners to attract minority investors and an attempt by all clubs to have minority representation among their directors, increased community activity pegged to minority youth, and a broader program of employee education.
Jesse Jackson, who had met with the owners during the Marge Schott controversy and said that he would organize stadium boycotts and demonstrations when the season started if baseball didn't implement a meaningful affirmative action program, called the recommendations "disappointing and inadequate to the size and nature of the problem."
" . . . Since there is neither an acceptable general or team-by-team affirmative action plan, the Rainbow Commission for Fairness in Athletics has no alternatives but to engage in a campaign of direct action," Jackson said in a statement, adding that he will announce the scope of that action Wednesday. However, he has already notified the White House that he might picket next Monday's season opener at Camden Yards in Baltimore, where President Clinton is scheduled to throw out the first ball.
"The report sets forth a series of good principles and good intentions to be implemented individually and voluntarily, but contains no over-all or team-by-team plan to correct the situation; sets forth no specific goals, and has no time frame to accomplish the general goals," Jackson said. "There is no directive or incentive involved to implement an affirmative action plan, and (baseball) will impose no sanctions on any team that fails to implement the good intentions and principles."
Said Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and co-chairman of the equal opportunity committee: "We didn't spend all this time (preparing the initiatives) to look like a bunch of fools. The clubs are committed to the program, and we're committed to seeing that it's carried out.
"If a club is recalcitrant, we'll go back to the council or the new commissioner when he's hired and ask for sanctions, but I don't think it will come to that."
Asked if pressure from Jackson and other minority leaders prompted this latest review of baseball's minority situation, Reinsdorf said that the Schott controversy--the Cincinnati Red owner has been suspended for a year for racial and ethnic slurs--and the "public's reaction" to it was an "obvious motivation."
"Our charge was to see if baseball was as bad as everyone seemed to be saying it was," Reinsdorf said. "We concluded that it isn't. In relation to a lot of other industries, we've done a lot. It's just that there's more to be done."
In announcing the recommendations, Selig pointed out that minority employment in baseball's front offices had increased from 2% to 17% in the last six years and that there are six minority managers in the major leagues, double last year's total. However, Jackson said baseball's report "attempts to camouflage the real picture by counting women as minorities, by lumping all categories, and by lifting up specific general numbers where there has been some progress but providing no numbers (vendors, for example) where there has been no progress." He said baseball's "under-utilization of minorities" remains deplorable.
The report by the equal opportunity committee seemed to address the involvement of Jackson and others, concluding that baseball should never negotiate with any outside group or individual on minority issues but "must be willing to receive input from responsible professionals."
Asked about Jackson's reaction, Reinsdorf said: "You'll have to talk to Rev. Jackson about that. All I can tell you is that we're serious about these recommendations and the direction we've already headed."