On the evening of February 18 at the William Hannon Library, I served as the event correspondent for one of the many Faculty Pub Nights that the library has had this year. This particular Pub Night featured Shaun Anderson, assistant professor in Communication Studies, discussing his recent research publication titled: The African American Community and Professional Baseball: Examining Major League Baseball’s Corporate Social-Responsibility Efforts as a Relationship-Management Strategy.
Anderson began his presentation about his work by announcing that this study stemmed from his dissertation at West Virginia University. Long before he became a professor at LMU in April 2016, Professor Anderson had a love for sports. Eventually, he became interested in baseball and, in particular, the stories of minority players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Athletes of color, such as Jackie Robinson, played in the major leagues following the desegregation of the MLB in the 1940s. However, according to Anderson, participation in baseball is on the decline among African-Americans and has been for some time. The shift seems to be stemming from the rise in popularity of the NBA and the NFL. Those organizations have been rising in cultural dominance since the 1970s.
Additionally, the emergence of the “boatload mentality” (a term that was new to many people in the audience) has also hurt the participation of U.S. citizens in major league baseball. What is boatload mentality? This is the practice currently utilized by the MLB to train and recruit potential players from Latin America countries. The cost to bring up these played is significantly lower than bringing up the same number of players in the U.S. As Anderson said: “It’s not moral. It’s not ethical. But it’s not illegal.” When I spoke with him after the presentation, Anderson agreed with me that it was a “soft form of outsourcing.”
Anderson concluded his presentation by recommending what the MLB should do about declining participation of U.S. athletes of color. In 1989, the MLB established an organization called “Reviving Inner Cities Baseball Program” (RICBP) with the hope of recruiting more players back to baseball. However, in the 21 years since the RICBP came into existence, baseball’s audience continues to decrease. To solve this problem, Anderson recommended an idea based on relationship management theory which emphasizes the importance of developing public relationships over common interests and shared goals over time which result in a mutual understanding and benefits for interacting organizations. The heart of his presentation was this theory. Anderson also recommended increased diversity outreach, a heightened attention to corporate social responsibility within the MLB, and a shift toward recognizing which corporate actions benefit society the most. The presentation ended with cheers and applause followed by questions.
This post was written by library student ambassador Fabio Cabezas. Fabio is a senior management major.