Former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will help design clothing line honoring Black icons

Key Points
  • Former Major League Baseball pitcher CC Sabathia is joining Roots of Fight clothing line to honor Black baseball icons.
  • A portion of the revenue will be directed to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the estate of legendary Black players, and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees talks to the media prior to Game 5 of the ALCS between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Friday, October 18, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Alex Trautwig | MLB Photos | Getty Images

Former New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia is ready to embrace another post-career business decision that he hopes will bring awareness to the legacy of Black players in baseball.

In a partnership with the Major League Baseball Players Association, apparel company Roots of Fight will create a clothing collection to honor Black baseball icons. Sabathia will serve as the creative director of the clothing line.

A portion of the revenue will be directed to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to "preserve and celebrate the rich history of African American baseball and its significance in the social advancement of America at large," said a statement announcing the partnership. Revenue from sales will also be directed to the estates of legendary Black players and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It's near and dear to my heart, that museum, so I wanted to do something to commemorate the 100th year of the Negro Leagues and something for the museum to bring awareness to it and drive people to Kansas City to go check it out," Sabathia told CNBC.

Major League Baseball celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on Feb. 13, and had been expected to honor the Negro Leagues this year before Covid-19 threw its season into disarray.

The clothing collection will feature items, including hoodies, long-sleeved baseball T-shirts, and jackets. Former MLB great Jackie Robinson's name and likeness will be included, and items will cost up to $350.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the jazz music and historic hub downtown in Kansas City, Missouri on August 12, 2017.
Raymond Boyd | Getty Images

Sabathia said he wants the intuitive to bring more awareness to the declining percentage of Blacks in the MLB, which has recently hit historic lows. In 2017, Black players represented 7.7 percent of the MLB, the lowest in the history of the report's data. When the data was first compiled in 1991, Black players represented 18%.

In an interview with CNBC, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark called the declining stats the "exact opposite of growth and advancement."

"This isn't about (public relations) or ribbon-cutting," Clark said. "This is about creating movement and awareness."

But also concerning is the dwindling number of Black youth playing the game, something the MLB is trying to combat via its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and its Youth Academy.

"It's on us to step up and get these kids in the inner-city back playing," said Sabathia, also noting how underprivileged communities can't keep up with expenses associated with playing baseball. "It's up to us to get these kids equipment, provide instructions, and get them playing.

"The reason why I started playing is because Dave Stewart looked like me; Rickey Henderson and Dave Parker looked like me," added Sabathia, who retired after his 19th season last year. "It was so many different examples of faces in the game that looked like me … and it's not that anymore. We're not represented well."

The 39-year-old Sabathia, who finished his pitching career with 251 wins (tied with Bob Gibson for 47th all-time), paid a visit to the Yankees summer camp on Tuesday as clubs continue to train for the MLB season delayed by coronavirus.

The league hit a brief snag this week, following the Independence Day holiday, as delayed testing results forced some teams to close camps. Sabathia said it's "a tough time" for the MLB but added, "the country as a whole is going through this tough time with this virus.

He advised his former MLB colleagues to use the "one day at a time" approach as camps continue to ramp up with Opening Day scheduled for July 23 and July 24.

"I think guys are just trying to make it work," Sabathia said. "Guys want to get out there and play and want to be as safe as possible, but they want to play baseball. We're baseball players; that's what we do in the summertime."

MLB targets 60-game season
MLB targets 60-game season