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Baseball’s Accidental Racism: The Draft, African-American Players, and the Law

63 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2011 Last revised: 6 Jun 2012

George B. Shepherd

Emory University School of Law

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: October 25, 2011

Abstract

Major League Baseball has recently experienced two puzzling upheavals. First, the number of foreign players has grown, to twenty-eight percent of all players. At the same time, the fraction of African-American players has declined, and is now at its lowest level in more than thirty years. The solution to the puzzle lies within the league itself. In 1965, MLB instituted two regulations that penalized domestic players: the draft and age minimums. Because the regulations applied only to U.S. players, teams shifted their scouting and development resources to foreign countries. Our empirical analysis, using a new data set, shows that the shift has caused growth in the numbers of foreign MLB players and a decline in U.S. players, especially harming disadvantaged groups such as African-Americans.

The regulations violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in two ways. First, because they explicitly burden only U.S. players, they constitute intentional discrimination based on national origin. Second, because the regulations’ impact falls disproportionately on African-Americans, the league has engaged in unlawful racial discrimination. The appropriate remedy is that the draft and age limits should be eliminate.

Keywords: baseball, discrimination, labor regulation

JEL Classification: L83, K29, K39

Suggested Citation

Shepherd, George B. and Shepherd, Joanna, Baseball’s Accidental Racism: The Draft, African-American Players, and the Law (October 25, 2011). Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 1, November 2011; Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-117; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-170. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1949257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1949257

George B. Shepherd (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-606-2856 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-8957 (Phone)

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