MLB Diversity, Equity and Inclusion guide

May 25th, 2021

Major League Baseball’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion was amplified in 2020 and into 2021, with several initiatives created to reach the fans and the communities where they live.  

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked a national conversation about social justice and equality that continues today. Major League Baseball is proud to be a part of an ongoing commitment to invoke concrete social justice action.

The following is a comprehensive guide illustrating MLB’s continuing efforts to set an example on and off the field.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Major League Baseball has amplified the voices of current and former players through conversations on race, culture and issues on diversity in baseball, all of which have been featured prominently on MLB Network, and MLB Social Media platforms.

In a similar fashion, additional conversations on these topics have featured diverse baseball executives and external representatives, with internal-focused, virtual conversations aimed at baseball employees (through MLB’s Business Resource Group program) and members of the youth baseball & softball community (e.g., “DREAM Series,” “RBI Mound Visits,” & “Girls Baseball/Softball Breakthrough Series”).

In addition to virtual conversations for employees and fans, MLB’s steps to educate and amplify conversations around important social justice issues included the creation of a new, comprehensive resources webpage:

In September of 2020, members of MLB Legal provided 30 hours of pro bono support to the “Lawyers for Racial Justice” program, helping research the role of law enforcement in schools, and additional hours on issues related to agricultural child labor – both of which disproportionately affect children of color.

Also that month, MLB and the MLBPA committed $10 million to help fund innovative programs designed by The Players Alliance to improve representation of Black Americans in all levels of baseball.

In the offseason, MLB made an extra donation of $1 million worth of youth baseball equipment and PPE for the Alliance’s “Pull Up Neighbor” tour.

MLB continues to have ongoing, substantive dialogue with The Players Alliance, including for the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day.

Commissioner’s Senior Executive Team

The hiring of Michele Meyer-Shipp as Baseball’s first “Chief People & Culture Officer” – whose duties include all Human Resource, Office Operations and Diversity/Equity/&Inclusion efforts – as well as the promotion of Tony Reagins to Chief Baseball Development Officer, provides important representation on key decision-making opportunities in baseball’s C-suite.

Among other key baseball operations hires, including Ken Griffey Jr. as a Special Advisor to the Commissioner, are:

• Michael Hill (SVP of Baseball Operations)
• Raul Ibañez (SVP of Baseball Operations)
• Rajai Davis (Sr. Director of On-Field Operations)
• Joe Martinez (Sr. Director of On-Field Strategy)
• Bo Porter (Consultant on Coaching Development)

Play Ball

As part of an ongoing effort to further build tangible connections between baseball and the Black community, Major League Baseball has partnered on a series of special drive-thru PLAY BALL ( events at Black churches over the course of the pandemic.

The socially-distanced events focused on providing families and children with bat & ball sets that they can safely enjoy at home and various parts of their neighborhoods, such as parks and playgrounds.

Previous events have been held in Washington, DC, Charleston, S.C., Columbia, Miss., Camden, Ark., Oklahoma City, Okla., Philadelphia, Pa., Richmond, Va., Queens, N.Y. and Somerset, N.J.

The 2020 Draft

MLB utilized the 2020 Draft to show solidarity with the movement for social & racial justice through a collective effort from our Baseball Operations leadership.

Individual donations from club representatives, combined with matches from MLB and club owners, totaled more than $1.1 million to the following organizations:

• Campaign Zero
• Color of Change
• Equal Justice Initiative
• Jackie Robinson Foundation
• NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Civic Engagement

In September, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the Civic Alliance, a non-partisan group of businesses working together to build a future where everyone participates in shaping the United States.

MLB also committed to Time To Vote, a business-led initiative to help ensure employees have access to and information about early voting or vote-by-mail options, as well as updating policies to ensure paid time off on Election Day in an effort to support employee efforts to volunteer as poll or election workers.

Eight clubs, inclusive of nine sites – including two MLB Youth Academies – provided a location as a polling site, voting center, ballot drop-off or ballot processing site.

Nineteen clubs provided education and resource landing pages on the voting and election process. MLB did the same with

Two clubs – the Brewers and Giants – held voter registration and education events at their ballparks.

Several other clubs have held voter registration and education events at their Youth Academy, including the Royals, Reds, Astros and Rangers.

MLB clubs and players were featured in the “More Than a Vote” PSA, which was in rotation across broadcast networks including MLB Network.

MLB Business Resource Groups (BRGs) have hosted several virtual events promoting voter education and civic engagement for MLB employees.

MLB and clubs held either Election Day of Service or office closures to participate in the election process on Nov. 3.

Diversity in Business

MLB’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team has taken substantive steps to support diverse-owned businesses and prospective job seekers and students from under-represented groups.

It collaborated with MLB Ticket Sales team to launch a pilot sales career awareness program for students at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI).

It forged a partnership with the National Association of Black Engineers, and the national equivalent for Hispanic/Latino Engineers, to help with casting a wide net in sourcing diverse talent for open roles.

It hosted “Step Up To The Plate” information sessions with HBCU students – including baseball and softball teams – to go over topics such as baseball operations, technology, sales, professional development and resume workshop/LinkedIn training.

It hosted a similar “Women in Technology” session providing information on career pathing as well as insight and advice with aspiring women tech professionals.

It provided nearly $320,000 of pro bono banner-ad space on and billboards on MLB Network to Black-owned and women-owned businesses.

It provided C-suite coaches workshops for more than 150 Black-owned businesses and club procurement representatives.

MLB and its Clubs have spent nearly $2 billion on diverse-owned businesses since 1998 through the Diverse Business Partners Program.

Youth programming

MLB has reaffirmed commitments to youth via multi-year partnerships with the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

MLB has expanded its philanthropic partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation to include a greater investment in the JRF scholarship program and greater coordination on MLB/Club internships, full-time job opportunities and exposure to MLB careers. MLB has also set aside several 2021 summer internship slots specifically for JRF Scholars. The $3.5 million commitment to JRF also includes support for the Jackie Robinson Museum.

Historically, MLB and its Clubs have contributed approximately $20 million to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, including supporting college scholarships for more than 150 JRF scholars.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of their charitable partnership, MLB recently announced a five-year extension with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with a key element of the partnership focusing on workforce development and quarterly career exposure/exploration events with BGCA youth as well as funding to support BGCA inclusion in MLB Club internships, career days or additional career exposure/exploration programs.

A total of $5 million will be contributed to BGCA through 2025 for the above-mentioned career readiness/workforce development program as well as toward the growth of youth baseball and softball among BGCA kids.

One of MLB’s key initiatives is the baseball development programming led by MLB and USA Baseball, including the Breakthrough Series, DREAM Series and the Hank Aaron Invitational – the latter of which is a joint effort with the MLBPA.

Ninety-five percent of all baseball development event participants who have graduated high school between 2016 and 2020 have played baseball at the college or professional levels.

Club activations

Several Clubs have launched efforts and formed alliances or councils to support efforts related to social & racial justice, as well as general Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts. Notable examples (but not entirety of the Clubs) include:

Minnesota Twins: The Pohlad Family committed $25 million to racial justice, bringing to bear resources of the Pohlad Family Foundation, Pohlad family members and Pohlad Companies in a two-phased, community-based approach. Short-term, it focused on providing immediate relief and rebuilding organizations in impacted communities, in addition to encouraging employee volunteerism and matching employee donations across Pohlad Companies. The Pohlad organization also planned to work with local government, philanthropic organizations and the business community to help rebuild businesses that have been destroyed, with the goal of ensuring the continued cultural diversity and affordability of the local areas. Over the long term, the Pohlad family is focusing on impacting structural change through the Foundation. They will partner with other equally committed organizations to help change the systems that create racial inequities and marginalize people of color.

Cleveland Indians: Launched a sports alliance of Ohio’s three major sport teams to develop a sustainable and direct strategy to address social injustice facing the city of Cleveland and all Northeast Ohio communities. The alliance will also focus on improving the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens, encouraging nonpartisan voting activities and increasing the opportunities for quality education for everyone.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Joined together with 11 other L.A. teams to address racial injustice, develop educational opportunities and support other important issues facing Black communities. This five-year commitment includes being key voices in the Play Equity social justice movement – promoting impactful change locally, and it is aimed to inspire similar actions nationally. The Dodgers Foundation also hosted various Zoom calls, helping youth understand racism and social justice.

Milwaukee Brewers: Joined the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks to partner with Microsoft to form the Equity League, an investment collaboration for social change.

New York Yankees: Created the Yankees Diversity and Inclusion Committee to identify, engage and address issues related to equality, racial justice and inclusivity. Includes the historic Yankees-CUNY (City University of New York) Partnership Program, predicated on identifying and exposing CUNY students and alumni to career paths, employment and business opportunities throughout the New York Yankees organization.

Texas Rangers: Announced the Charley Pride Fellowship Program, a 10-week rotation through three front office departments, and the five fellows will be allowed to select the departments for the rotation based on their interests.

Seattle Mariners: Joined as founding partners to support a new diversity program at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics, offering fellowship and job opportunities for candidates enrolled in the university’s newest graduate program, an MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management (MBA SEM). Roles will be available in such areas as communications, finance, legal, Information Technology and athletic training. The Mariners are joined in this effort by the Seattle Kraken, Seattle Storm, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Seahawks, Oak View Group and Climate Pledge Arena.

Solidarity throughout baseball

MLB supported and showed solidarity with players and teams in their efforts to demonstrate support for the Black community and individuals affected by oppression, discrimination and inequality.

MLB inverted the colors on the black and white version of the logo, displayed throughout MLB’s media platforms and in ballparks.

Players wore wristbands with the inverted MLB logo.

“Black Lives Matter” stencils were featured on mounds around the league during 2020 opening week.

Players were given options to wear patches that stated, “United For Change” or “Black Lives Matter” on their uniforms.

MLB loosened cleat restrictions all year to allow for players to express solidarity with the fight for social justice and other causes.

MLB worked with Phillies OF Andrew McCutchen to facilitate a player-led moment of solidarity in the pregame of all games played July 23-24.

Jackie Robinson Day

Every year on April 15, MLB celebrates the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947. The 2021 activities included:

NUMBER ‘42’ – Players, managers, coaches, umpires and all on-field personnel wore Robinson’s iconic number (at least once) on games on April 15 and April 16.

‘42’ LOGO appeared on uniform sleeves while team-specific uniform font and colors were featured as a patch on New Era caps. MLB donated all licensed royalties from the sales of caps to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

THE PLAYERS ALLIANCE BATTING PRACTICE TEE – Special batting practice T-shirts, which have been designed by The Players Alliance and provided by Nike, were worn by players prior to games. These shirts will not be sold at retail.

“THANK YOU, JACKIE” – MLB Network produced a special video – titled “Thank You, Jackie” – played in all ballparks on Jackie Robinson Day (on both April 15 and 16) displaying brief glimpses of the impact he made as both an iconic athlete and a champion of social and racial equality. The video was narrated by former All-Star outfielder and President of The Players Alliance Curtis Granderson.

JACKIE ROBINSON CHALLENGE BY EVERFI – As a part of the MLB Summer Slugger Program, Clubs can customize a “Jackie Robinson Challenge” that students can complete as a supplement to the 72-game course. MLB is also challenging younger students to visit and become more familiar with Jackie’s life and legacy through printable education activities.

TRAILBLAZER SERIES – MLB and USA Baseball are hosting virtual presentations for girls, ages 13 and under, from across the county who would normally attend the annual Trailblazer Series, a three-day tournament serving as both instructional and developmental. The effort in 2021 is designed to inform and inspire girls who prefer to play baseball, and give them the tools and information toward that pursuit.

OLYMPIANS AT THE JACKIE ROBINSON TRAINING COMPLEX – From April 12 to 22, including on Jackie Robinson Day, the No. 1 U.S. Women's National Team will continue preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, which is the Official Training Facility of the USA Softball National Team Program. Exhibition games as well as a public practice session will be among the activities.

PLAY BALL DRIVE-THRU EVENT IN LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA – Softball Olympic Gold Medalist and Youth Softball Ambassador Jennie Finch hosted a special drive-thru PLAY BALL event at the Christian Baptist Church in her current hometown of Lake Charles, La. This effort is part of a larger campaign by MLB to build connections to the Black community through events at Black churches throughout the U.S.

Several clubs enacted their own unique celebrations to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, which can be found here.