Anti-Americanism Comes to America’s Pastime

Despite the fact that football overtook baseball as the nation's most-watched sport literally decades ago, the cliche of baseball as "the national pastime" dies hard, even though American football is played far more rarely outside the United States than baseball is, a fact reflected by the percentage of Major League Baseball players who are Hispanic — 27.4.

By contrast, the NFL is just 1.5 percent Hispanic.

But the percentage of MLB players who are African-American, after peaking at 18.7 the year the Cincinnati Reds had the best record in all of baseball but did not even make the playoffs — 1981 — now stands at 7.7%.

With Asians comprising 1.1% of baseball rosters, you do the math: Major League Baseball is 63.8% white (St. Louis pitcher Ryan Helsey is Native American — the only currently active player in the game of that heritage).

This could indeed be why the "national pastime" label still sticks to baseball — the NFL is 70% black, the NBA, 81% black (sorry, but the NHL, which is 96% white, doesn't count, if for no other reason than that hockey is the national sport of another country) — and why there had been no national anthem desecrations to speak of in the sport.

Until now.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a pandemic of disrespect for the national anthem on baseball's long-awaited opening day, with black players accounting for virtually all of the desecrations.

That cannot possibly be good for cohesion in the two leagues' 30 clubhouses.

And not for nothing, but in a sport whose audience is 82% white and even more skewed toward whites over 55 than the NFL's viewers are, this is certain to have huge implications in the upcoming presidential election: White veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Desert Storm, and especially of the two Cold War-era conflicts — Vietnam and Korea — are not likely to take kindly to being reminded of how the counterculturists of the 1960s burned and spat on the American flag while waving the enemy's flag and chanted the enemy dictator's name during the Vietnam War — and those who are of a blue-collar background and live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin, are especially likely to be angered, making it supremely counterproductive.

This seditious behavior is tantamount to shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater (as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote in his opinion in the Schenck vs. United States case in 1919) and resorting to "fighting words" (as per Justice Frank Murphy in the 1942 Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire case).

And it accomplishes absolutely nothing — nothing, that is, except to pit one race against another.

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