Nike celebrates the silver anniversary of the Air Max Griffey 1 by honoring Jackie Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day.
After the release of the often-sought-after freshwater colorway last month, Nike pays homage to Jackie Robinson with the kids’ signature shoe. The Jackie Robinson-inspired pair features Robinson’s iconic number 42, replacing Griffeys’ 24 on the insole and across both ankle straps.
Accompanying the number swap will be one of Robinson’s famous quotes, “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free,” that will appear across the ankle collar of the strap as well.
Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947, when he made his Major League Baseball debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After having his jersey retired in 1997, the MLB donned April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day across the league.
In 2007, it was Griffey who asked MLB if he could honor Jackie by wearing No, 42
April 15, 2007: Ken Griffey Jr. dons No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson after receiving consent from then-Commissioner Bud Selig and Robinson's widow, Rachel. Selig then encourages all players to join in the tribute. #Jackie42#RedsVault
With Griffey as the light that sparked the idea, in 2009, the MLB requested that all players and on-field personnel wear the iconic number 42 during games on Jackie Robinson Day.
Before having his number 42 retired by all 30 MLB franchises, Robinson achieved a Rookie of the Year, a World Series ring, six All-Star appearances, National League MVP, and a National League Batting championship, to name a few of his many accolades.
His most impactful award was forging a path for other players of color and becoming a prominent politician, activist, and leader of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Jackie was the first African-American to be VP of a major corporation (Choc Full O Nuts) and the first Black bank owner (Freedom National in Harlem in the 1960s). He was first in way more than just baseball.
Release day for the special edition colorway will be available April 24 via the SNKRS app and at select retailers for $170.
Robinson is the only player to have his number retired throughout an entire professional sporting league. Through donations, customized cleats, letters and shirts, the league and its players found many ways to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers Legend.
First, the Players Alliance which is a nonprofit organization funded by active and former players seeking to improve the representation of Black America in baseball, made a huge splash.
More than 230 members of the group including David Price, Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward, Marcus Semien and Jackie Bradley Jr. pledged to donate their full game day salary in support of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
David Price, Jason Heyward, Jackie Bradley Jr. among more than 100 MLB Players donating game-day salary on Jackie Robinson Day to support the Players Alliance.
“What Jackie Robinson means to me…He is an inspiration whose life and works transcended far past just baseball. His sacrifices made this world a better place,” said Jackie Bradley Jr. when asked about Robinson’s impact.
The organization is also planning to make a financial commitment to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to support the launch of the Players Alliance and JRF Scholarship Fund, empowering students to receive scholarship money for Fall 2021.
Last season the group raised over $1 million on Jackie Robinson Day and the money was invested into Black communities.
The Players Alliance hooked each player up with “Breaking Barriers” Nike Warm-up shirts for batting practice. We also saw many players with customized “42” cleats such as Tim Anderson, Franciso Lindor and Alex Bregman.
Many players took the time to express what Jackie Robinson Day means to them.
“I just want to say thank you so much for everything that you have done for the sport, for people like me, people like you and for people around the world that would have had a very tough time trying to do what we are doing today in any sport. So I salute you,” said Miami Marlin’s second baseman Jazz Chisholm, who is the third Bahamian-born player to make the Major Leagues.
From San Diego Padres outfielder Tommy Pham: “Wearing 42 today is a step in the right direction. It signifies equality and it signifies meaning as a Black man in this game being able to live the childhood dream.”
The most rewarding part of Jackie Robinson Day is seeing all diversity at its best with players of all races honoring one of the most important Civil Rights legends this world has seen.
Jackie balled hard each time he laced his cleats up. He stayed committed and bravely fought through any and every adversity he faced.
The Universe is a crazy place, but seeing everyone come together on this special day to celebrate a common goal gives us hope in the race for equality.
We’re seeing Black and Brown players making a real impact early in this MLB season and there are more prospects coming down the pipeline, but the numbers tell the story and MLBbro.com has some information that Jackie Robinson would be very interested in.
The percentage of Black & Brown players on 2021 Opening Day rosters (including IL, restricted and suspended players) was 7.6%, which remained generally consistent with 2019 and 2020 Opening Day rosters:
Overall the diversity of all players on Opening Day rosters (906 players in total) is 37.6%:
Under MLB protocols for the 2021 season, each MLB Club has designated players at Alternate Training sites who will train and practice at locations near MLB ballparks. There are an additional 56Black/African-American players.
With the 125 Black/African-American players at the Major League/Alternate Site levels to start the 2021 Season, there is tremendous future potential in the representation of players on the field. The overall diversity of MLB Alternate Sites is 39.4%.
The Texas Rangers (10) and Seattle Mariners (8) led Clubs in Black players on their Opening Day and Alternate site rosters.
The MLB Draft continues to show promising signs for a future increase in Black or African-American players.
Between 2012 and 2020, the first round of the MLB Draft featured 51 Black or African-American players out of 289 selections (17.6 percent), including a large percentage of alumni from MLB-led youth & amateur baseball development programs.
In the 2020 Draft, 16 of the first 73 selections (21.9 percent) were people of color including Black or African-Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.
Of those, 9 were Black or African-American players, accounting for 12.3 percent of the first 73 selections.
Additionally, Black amateur players continue to rank high on prospective lists ahead of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Led by Tony Reagins, one of only six African-American General Managers in MLB history, MLB’s Baseball & Softball Development group is committed to creating year-round opportunities for:
Grassroots participation to introduce and grow game at the youngest levels.
Through PLAY BALL, RBI and the “in-school” Fun At Bat program.
In 2020 and 2021, successfully launched the “Drive-Thru PLAY BALL” effort specifically with Black Churches throughout the U.S.
Diversify the baseball and softball pipeline by focusing on development and advancement through a variety of diversity-focused introductory and developmental programs.
NOTE: 95% of all baseball development event participants (Hank Aaron Invitational, DREAM SEries, Breakthrough Series) who have graduated high school have played baseball at the college or pro level.
Other programs/initiatives include the MLB Youth Academy network and ID Tour
Highlight the competitive landscape of both high school and collegiate baseball & softball.
MLB-led programming (with USA Baseball & USA Softball) reaches more than 4 million youth around the world.
Utilized the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, FL (the former “Historic Dodgertown”) as a hub for premier youth baseball and softball programming led by MLB, USA Baseball and USA Softball.
Off The Field & In The Front Office
Chicago White Sox Executive VP Ken Williams is the lone Black man in charge of baseball operations for any major-league club. He was hired as the White Sox’s GM 21 years ago, and during the past two decades, the only other Black GMs hired throughout baseball were Tony Reagins (Los Angeles Angels) Michael Hill (Miami Marlins) and Dave Stewart (Arizona Diamondbacks.)
They have yet to get another opportunity. The only active minority GMs are Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers, Farhan Zaidi of the San Francisco Giants and Kim Ng.
Diversity Pipeline Program
Launched in 2016, DPP seeks to identify, develop and grow the pool of qualified minority and female candidates for on‐field and baseball operations positions in professional baseball.
Has assisted in more than 215 total hires in a variety of baseball operations, coaching, and trainer roles, including 120 during the 2018-2020 cycle.
In Q1 in 2021, the DPP has assisted with 38 hires throughout the League, 53% of which have been African-American.
Diverse Pipeline Program candidates have increased 339% since March 2020.
Additional programs include:
Diversity Fellowship Program (Competitive pipeline for people of diverse backgrounds into front office positions that did not previously exist)
Former Player Internship program (has assisted former players of color – with an eye on expanding that toward more women candidates – with successful transitions into front office roles)
Continuing education sessions with members of the Buck O’Neil Professional Baseball Scouts & Coaches Association.
Sponsored 55 students to virtually attend the 10th Annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Analytics Conference (·75% were students of color; nine from HBCUs).
We should recognize that Major League Baseball has worked, through the RBI youth baseball program and the effort of a number of individual players, both past and present, to develop young talent.
Three of the top 15 prospects on MLB.com are Black Americans, with more in the pipeline each year.
Still, with all of the great things going on, there is work to be done.
Half of the teams in Major League Baseball have one or fewer Black players on their active rosters. We must also acknowledge baseball having exactly two more active Black managers than it did when Robinson died.
With LeBron James becoming a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, there are now three Black men sitting in the owner’s boxes, yet there isn’t a single Black man or woman running a team’s operations.
That’s why organizations like The Players Alliance are so important.
While our nation as a whole attempts to reckon with the issue of diversity throughout society, they work within the structure of the game to continue to break the barrier that Jackie first fought through in 1947.
More than 150 members strong, the alliance maintains a number of programs that are focused on generating action as much as awareness.
And that’s the role I believe we want to play here at MLBBro.com. Generating action and awareness.