By Travis Nyhus
Sports media professionals have gotten into a trap when covering international players, specifically those that are Latino, focusing more on stereotypes rather than critical analysis of a player’s ability.
This has become increasingly problematic over the last decade as Major League Baseball has seen an influx of international players. In fact, in 2014, the opening day rosters consisted of 224 players born outside of the U.S. a stark contrast to when Jackie Robinson first broke the color barrier.
Colin Cowherd, a sports radio host, formally of ESPN was trying to justify that a baseball general manager can step right into the dugout and assume responsibilities as the on field manager. His reasoning was that, “a third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic.” How complex could the sport be, he questioned.
No matter what connection he was trying to make, clearly there are stereotypes that still persist among media when it comes to Latin American baseball players.
The Atlantic did a study looking at MLB announcers and how they described players of differing race or ethnicity. They found that, “Latino players are almost 13 percent less likely to be praised for intangibles than their white counterparts.” White baseball players are much more likely to be portrayed as,”achieving success because of their strong work ethic or intelligence.” This mostly likely occurs when foreign ball players struggle with the second language when talking to reporters or don’t adjust to a new culture very well.
When American baseball players travel to Latin American to play winter ball they don’t experience the same negative reactions. Sporting News writer Adrian Burgos Jr. says that, “Latino players, fans, and the press appreciate the effort, knowing that ultimately it is their performance between the white lines that can result in pennants being won.”
A study on the coverage of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine was conducted during the years of 2000-2007. It found that between 2005-2007, coverage of Latino baseball players decreased, even though it was the 2nd highest ethnic group in major league baseball.
Major League Baseball and sports media needs to embrace the diversity of the sports and stop trying to make players fit into overused stereotypes.