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By Jon Weisman
Not only is the April 15 Jackie Robinson Day celebration returning to Dodger Stadium this year after a one-season absence, but on that night, the Dodgers will host the Mariners in the ninth annual Civil Rights Game — the first time that the two events will be held together. The game will air on ESPN2.
MLB developed the Civil Rights Game “to pay tribute to the spirit of the civil rights movement and to honor those who embodied the struggle for equal rights for all Americans.” The Dodgers have played in the event once before, in 2012 at Atlanta.
“It is truly an ideal pairing to have the franchise of Jackie Robinson and the city of Los Angeles join our National Pastime in recognizing leaders of the past and present who have done so much for the benefit of our country,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Together with the Dodgers, Major League Baseball will proudly celebrate the civil rights movement, the courageous people like Jackie who contributed to it, and its many lessons that continue to resonate today.”
Said Dodger owner Earvin “Magic” Johnson: “We’re proud of the role the Dodgers have played in professional sports history as pioneers of social change since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 during the team’s days in Brooklyn. From Jackie to Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Chan Ho Park to now Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have sought to lead the way and be a model of inclusion in sports and American society as a whole.”
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Robinson signing with the Dodgers.
“Thanks to Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers, baseball was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, integrating long before other parts of our nation caught up,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said. “I’m proud that Los Angeles will play home to this game honoring the legacy of Jackie Robinson and all those who stand for freedom and equality.”
Together, MLB and the Dodgers will honor MLB Beacon Award recipients, conduct a youth baseball-focused event and host the “Baseball & Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion, where “a group of prominent participants will discuss the pivotal role baseball played in the civil rights movement and the game’s continued presence as a social institution in American society.” Dodgers.com will stream the panel.