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Back You are here: Home Affirmative Action Affirmative Action News Employment Does MLB's New Diversity Fellowship Violate Civil Rights Law?

Does MLB's New Diversity Fellowship Violate Civil Rights Law?

The job description explicitly says only women and applicants of color will be considered.

Baseball is my sport, and kudos to the Houston Astros for winning the World Series—its first ever. But discrimination on the basis of race and sex remains wrong and illegal, and as I wrote in this piece, first published in The Weekly Standard, Major League Baseball needs to ask whether it really wants to deny jobs in its business operations to people who lack the “right” skin color or sex.

Of all the professional sports, Major League baseball has the broadest range of players from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds: In 2015, more than 230 foreign-born players from 17 countries played the game at its highest level.

MLB is trying to bring that same sense of diversity to the front office: A few weeks ago the league announced something called the Diversity Fellowship Program for recent college graduates wanting to start a business career in baseball. There are as many as 23 positions to fill by November 17. You need at least a 3.2 grade point average. And MLB will limit the new hires to “women and people of color.”

Say again? Yes, “women and people of color.” White men apparently need not apply.

Now, federal civil rights law prohibits private employment discrimination on account of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” If MLB hires on the exclusionary basis it has announced, it will violate the law. It has to know better. And perhaps someone in one of its law offices does. The announcement of the new program included this boilerplate in small print:

MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network, and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (each of which shall be referred to herein as a "Baseball Entity") are equal opportunity employers and do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship, military or veteran status, predisposition to or carrier status of a genetic condition, disability or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local.

Perhaps MLB will be informed of the problem it has created for itself and correct it. So far, no unsuccessful applicant has stepped forward to say he (a white man) has been discriminated against on account of race and sex. But it’s early in the hiring process. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the law upon private employers, could fairly take an interest in MLB’s race and sex-based classifications.

This would be a different matter if MLB said that in the Diversity Fellowship Program it was seeking applicants of both sexes and of all races and nationalities and promising to treat every applicant equally, without regard to the forbidden criteria of the civil rights laws. But that’s not what MLB said. It said we will hire only women and only persons of color.

It appears that as many as 10 of the 30 teams are not participating in the new program. We can understand why. Baseball made a mistake and needs to fix it before a lawsuit is filed and the game itself is besmirched by charges of race and sex-based discrimination.