Imagine, if you will, if the integration of Major League Baseball in 1947 had not eventually ended the Negro Baseball Leagues, as it had by 1951. Imagine if, long after Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Willy Mays, Henry Aaron, Bob Gibson, Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter and all the other African American greats now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown or headed there had been celebrated, cheered and loved by all Americans of every color and creed as they starred for teams in the National and American Leagues, there were still professional baseball leagues that were predominantly restricted to African American players. Wouldn’t you consider that a strange anomaly?
Yet the American Tennis Association, founded in 1917 as a response to the segregation of U.S. tennis, is still operating, and currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. It is a segregated sports organization. The New York Times published a feature on the ATA this week that began, “Other African-American sports organizations, such as baseball’s Negro Leagues, faded after integration, but the American Tennis Association has remained vibrant.”
Isn’t that wonderful? We still have a vibrant racially-restricted tennis organization!
In typical cowardly Times fashion, the article never hints at or acknowledges the obvious problems: hypocrisy and anachronism. The two most famous and popular female professional tennis players in the sport are black, yet the American Tennis Association still fosters segregation by race. The ATA’s mission, according to its website, is “To Promote Black Tennis in America.” That’s pretty plain, isn’t it? There is no such sport as “Black Tennis,” which I guess would be played with black tennis balls or something. No, this is an organization that only involves black players, holds tournaments where one must be African American to compete, and to which white tennis players don’t matter.
Nice. And at this point in our nation’s existence, wrong, destructive, offensive, and promoting a double standard that cannot be defended. Continue reading