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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Naro View of Sports – 5/13/04

Workers earn $2.00 U.S. per day at this U.S. owned baseball factory in Port au Prince, Haiti.
Workers earn $2.00 U.S. per day at this U.S. owned baseball factory in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Let me start this final column by saying how great an experience it has been to be the sports editor for The Mass Media. Since going to games is a part of my job, I have had the opportunity to watch many different teams play for UMass Boston. Like most people, I enjoy attending sporting events, but I must say that the talent which resides here at UMB has amazed me. Many times I found myself going to games that I was not even covering, I got so into the teams this season. At times there is nothing more relaxing than screaming your head off at a women’s hockey game or lacrosse battle.

Nevertheless, I think that if I diluted my message to my readers, be they sports fans or hecklers, I would be doing a great disservice to everyone, especially the profession itself.

Athletics are a fantastic way of meeting people, staying in good health, and relaxing, but we cannot let ourselves focus so much on athletics that we forget about the rest of the world. We live in a time of great turmoil, with war, poverty, and oppression running rampant in our nation and the rest of the world. For those who call themselves apolitical and merely “sports fans,” this message is even more important.

If you check the tags on your equipment and apparel, I guarantee it’s mostly foreign made. Labor costs, as we all know, are lower in third-world nations. In most, if not all, third-world nations, regimes allow child labor, ban unions, and make deals with nations such as the United States to create free zones in which safety and other protective labor standards are thrown out. People become commodities, worth less than the jersey you wear during a game or the baseball you try to catch in the stands when it’s hit out of the park.

Did you know that there is no machine which can stitch a baseball? Every single baseball is hand-stitched, touched by another human being long before any player touches it. At the same time we have professional ball players who fight for their right to make tens of millions a season, to throw and hit a baseball which someone hand-stitched for a wage that would make any moral being sick to their stomach.

In MOST factories that produce for Major League Baseballs there are monitored bathroom visits, forced overtime without pay, forced pregnancy exams on women, physical and verbal abuse by bosses. MLB subcontracts their work to sweatshops in places like Bangladesh where workers are paid $0.08 an hour. Ever buy a New Era MLB cap? If you pay $20 for a cap, less than one percent of that cost is wages.

Please do not construe this as any type of “guilt trip” being employed. Every day, no matter how conscious we try to be as consumers, we will inevitably purchase a product which came from a foreign nation, most likely made under poor working conditions. Nevertheless, progress can be made and it begins in this case with athletes, professional and amateur, beginning to take proactive steps toward improving a situation which can easily be fixed. We have fair-trade coffee served here at UMass, now let’s get some fair-trade baseballs and equipment here too!

I know of one website (which does link you to other similar sites) that deals with MLB and what I described above: http://www.iww.org/organize/news/mlb/index.shtml.

The UMass Boston Athletics program is full of high-caliber, standard-setting athletes, let’s set the standard in another way now. Thank you for reading my column and remember that you can make a difference on and off the field.