MLB Expands Aid Programs to Support Negro Leagues Players

A detail of an official Rawlings Major League Baseball baseball with the MLB logo during the game between the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on May 12, 2024. Credit - Nic Antaya—Getty Images

On Wednesday, The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) announced an expansion of financial assistance opportunities to support players of the Negro Leagues.

The initiative will create an annual benefit to financially aid Negro League players who played for less than four seasons. While there were other Black-only leagues players participated in, the Negro National League was a professional baseball league established in 1920 as racism and Jim Crow laws barred Black players from joining professional teams with white players. It wasn’t until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and stepped onto the Brooklyn Dodgers field in 1947, nearly 60 years after secretive “gentleman agreements” barred Black players from games, that the sport would become officially integrated.

“The players of the Negro Leagues are an important part of the history of our sport who persevered because of their love of the game despite the discrimination and segregation they faced,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred. “As we prepare to celebrate their legacy in June at Rickwood Field, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to further recognize their contributions.”

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark added: “Although long overdue, it is gratifying that these former players who meant so much to our game will finally receive a retirement benefit to help them through their senior years. This is another example of players using their collective voice to bring about progress.”

The program to provide financial assistance to former Negro League players will serve as an addition to the already existing MLB Players Pension Plan and the non-vested benefits program for retired players.

About 60 players from the Negro Leagues will attend a game between the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals on June 20 at Rickwood Field, which was home to the Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons from 1924 through 1960. Rickwood Field is also of importance as it serves as the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S.

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