Now I’m fully aware that unions exist in professional sports. I wasn’t aware the connection between the origins of pro sports unions and the Civil Right Movement. Baseball great Reggie Jackson stated that Marvin Miller, “… had more influence on Major League Baseball than anyone ever”. (Zirin) Miller was the former MLB union leader and pioneer who understood the influence society had on sports. According to him, “After the Civil Right Movement, you now had players thinking of what was wrong with society, and what we could change.” (Zirin) The first player to step up to Miller’s proposal to challenging the reserve clause, which practically meant a player had no say on what team he would play for, was Curt Flood. (Zirin) He eventually won his freedom with the aid of the union, but backlash was severe. He was shutout out of the 1970 season and quit 18 games into next season because of mistreatment for MLB and anti-union teammates. (Zirin) He was forced to retire from the game of baseball, but his lasting impact will be felt by every athlete after him in every major sports association.
The success of the Civil Right Movement and labor unions has broken through barriers but many still exist. Racism in sports has always been a sore subject in America. Earlier times it was apparent, now it’s more subtle but just as prevalent. Zirin’s take on Budweiser’s Leon debates this theory. “Leon” is the caricature of how corporate America views and despises Black athletes. (Zirin) Or how they despise its anti-heroes like Allen Iverson and the fans who embrace them. Thinking back to myself, I wouldn’t have thought of it such a light. When... [continues]
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