Commissioner speaks on panel about opportunities for minorities, women
By Paul Hagen
NEW YORK -- Commissioner Rob Manfred reaffirmed Major League Baseball's commitment to creating opportunities for women and minorities during the final day of the Fourth Annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium held Wednesday at Citi Field.
Manfred was part of a panel that included NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, USOC chief of organizational excellence Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, MLS president Mark Abbott, UTA executive director Gordon Smith and PGA chief executive officer Peter Bevacqua and was moderated by Wendy Lewis, Major League Baseball's senior vice president, diversity and strategic alliances.
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, chairman of MLB's Inclusion and Diversity Committee, made the opening remarks. There were also general sessions on Strategies for Creating A Competitive Diverse Pipeline in Sports and one on Individuals With Disabilities: Engagement at All Levels of the Game, featuring former Major Leaguers Jim Eisenreich and Jim Abbott.
Manfred stressed that diversity is not only the right thing to do but that it is important from a business standpoint as well.
"You can't just say, 'I'm going to improve my employment statistics' and rest on that as your diversity program in today's world," Manfred said. "Our people want to do the right thing. But it's much easier to get people committed to doing the right thing when your programs are supportive of your fundamental business objectives."
To that end, Manfred noted that MLB has made over $1 billion in investments with minority and female-owned businesses.
That's in addition to the money being spent on programs like the Urban Youth Academies, Elite Development Invitational, Play Ball initiative and the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and the $30 million partnership with the Major League Baseball Players Association which are all designed to attract minority athletes to the game.
The hope is that the best athletes will eventually play in the big leagues and that others will continue to follow the game as fans. Manfred is encouraged that there were more African-Americans drafted in the first round in June -- nine -- than any year since 1992.
The Commissioner also mentioned the efforts being made to recruit minorities for positions of authority both on and off the field, and he later elaborated during a media availability.
At the quarterly Owners Meetings in Chicago in August, MLB announced that it has retained Korn Ferry to help prepare candidates for the interview process.
The Selig Rule, named after Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, requires teams to consider minority candidates for high-level positions. Manfred said that steps were being taken to ensure compliance, and that he didn't think the Red Sox's decision to hire Dave Dombrowski when he became available this summer was a violation, pointing out his previous relationship with owner John Henry with the Marlins, that the Red Sox were not actively looking to fill a position when Dombrowski became available, that he has a proven track record and that in-season changes can be complicated.
"I see it as a unique set of circumstances, [so] I let the hiring go forward," Manfred said.
"The other thing we're doing is very actively engaging with the clubs and focusing in the Commissioner's Office on entry-level positions. I think it's important not to just think about GMs and field managers but, over the long haul, to focus on the pool of people who ultimately will mature into candidates for those senior leadership positions."
The Commissioner will fly to Mexico on Thursday for a related outreach.
"Our trip is an opportunity to develop stronger relationships with the professional leagues in Mexico," Manfred said. "It's an important part of baseball in North America and we hope to develop a better line of communication, which we ultimately hope will lead to a better flow of talent out of Mexico and into the big leagues. We feel it's important to our overall business objectives, and we see Mexico as an important international market for Major League Baseball."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.