Veteran baseball umpire loses case accusing MLB of racial discrimination

Baseball umpire Angel Hernandez’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball accusing them of racial discrimination has been dismissed by a New York City Judge.

Mr Hernandez was born in Cuba and has been a big league umpire since 1993. He accused the league of ignoring him for crew chief and World Series assignments because of his race.

He argued that he was passed over for the jobs despite being more senior and receiving better performance reviews than umpires selected for the assignments, Reuters reported.

The 59-year-old Mr Hernandez argued that the source of the treatment was a “history of animosity” from MLB chief Joe Torre.

Manhattan US District Judge Paul Oetken dismissed the suit, saying that Mr Hernandez didn’t show that the MLB treated him differently or that the policies of the league hurt minorities in a disproportionate way.

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“The court concludes that no reasonable juror could find that MLB’s stated explanation is a pretext for discriminatory motive,” Mr Oetken wrote on Wednesday.

He added that the pick of Alfonso Marquez to work on the 2011 and 2015 World Series was “a promotion that seemingly would not have been made were MLB discriminating on the basis of race or national identity”. Mr Hernandez had argued that him not having umpired a World Series since 2005 was part of the racial discrimination, The Baltimore Sun reported.

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The judge said that the MLB used different parameters when promoting umpires than performance and seniority and that Mr Hernandez didn’t show that he was superior in such a distinct manner as to prove that discrimination was a factor in their decision-making process.

“Hernandez’s handful of cherry-picked examples does not reliably establish any systematic effort on MLB’s part to artificially deflate Hernandez’s evaluations, much less an effort to do so in order to cover up discrimination. The evidence shows beyond genuine dispute that an umpire’s leadership and situation management carried the day in MLB’s promotion decisions,” the judge added.

Mr Oetken also said that few minorities being promoted was “statistically meaningless” because of the small number of positions and the small number of minorities who applied for them.

But he also said he was “mindful of the reality of unconscious bias and of the built-in headwinds that can freeze out protected groups from job opportunities and advancement”.

Kevin Murphy, the attorney for Mr Hernandez said there was a “good” chance that he will appeal the ruling.

“Major League Baseball shouldn’t get a pass on promoting minority umpires just because there were so few to begin with. That argument is tantamount to shooting your parents and then arguing you’re excused because you’re now an orphan,” he said according to Reuters.

Mr Hernandez said he had been rebuffed when seeking crew chief positions five times between 2011 and 2018. He was made interim crew chief in 2020, a season many umpires decided to sit out, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Hernandez said that Mr Torre’s ire stemmed from a 2001 game when he slammed a call from Mr Hernandez, saying that he “just wanted to be noticed”.

Mr Murphy said that the MLB has improved when it comes to promoting minorities.

“Angel Hernandez’s suit, we believe, is the reason,” he said according to Reuters.

The MLB declined to comment.

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