With the story of Jackie Robinson, one of the first African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, we're continuing our "Champions of Equity" campaign, which kicked off on the occasion of AC Milan v Sampdoria. AC Milan hope to tell the stories of sportsmen and women and athletes, who have made a significant contribution to the promotion of tolerance and inclusion on a global scale. The initiative falls under the wider RESPACT Manifesto, which itself promotes social equity, equality and inclusivity.
On 15 April 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson made his MLB debut in front of 23,000 spectators, putting an end to a long period of racial segregation in sports, which forced whites and blacks to play in separate competitions. Robinson, from the moment he made his debut, was on the receiving end of continuous racial insults and death threats from fans and opponents alike.
Some teammates leapt to his defence, the most celebrated of which was Pee Wee Reese, who was immortalised by a photo, in which he put his arm around Jackie's shoulder. The photo became an icon of equality and inclusivity and, as a result, was turned into a statue that remains on Coney Island to this day. In 1972, the Dodgers retired the number 42 in his honour. In 1997, MLB then imposed a ban on any player of any team wearing the number 42, save for games on Jackie Robinson Day - 5 April - every year.
Robinson is recognised as one of the great heroes of American sports, which, thanks to his courage and dignity, is no longer a place exclusively for whites. His story has become a symbol in the fight against racism, in a period in which the colour of one's skin determined their role in society.