Thursday 1 December 2022

The Importance Of Latino Athletes In The American Competitive Sports Scene

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There are countless Latino athletes who have played prominent roles in shaping the competitive sports scene in the United States.

Professional sports leagues have grown incredibly in terms of global following, exposure and of course revenue. The major expansion of professional sports in the U.S. has led to another booming economy in sports betting apps.

More than half of the U.S. states have legalized some form of sports betting ever since the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

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The rise of the sports betting world that we’ve seen over the decades wouldn’t be possible without the many athletes who broke the barriers and opened countless doors for future generations of Latino athletes.

Roberto Clemente’s Impact On Major League Baseball

Source: Photo by Louis Requena/ MLB via Getty Images

It’s been 50 years since Pittsburgh Pirates icon Roberto Clemente tragically died at the age of 38 in a plane crash, but his impact on the professional baseball landscape continues to be felt all these years later.

Clemente broke the barriers for Latino players in Major League Baseball and changed the game of baseball forever.  Clemente, who was born in Barrio San Antón, Carolina, Puerto Rico, got his big break when he joined the Cangrejeros de Santurce of Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico (now Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico).

In 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Clemente via the Rule 5 Draft. He turned professional in 1955 and showed promise by hitting .255 with five homers and 47 RBI in 124 games. It was only the start of something special.

Clemente breaking the barriers for Latino players paved the way for a long list of future Latin American MLB stars, including Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramírez, Pedro Martínez and Adrián Beltré.

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The current generation of superstar Latino MLB players includes Juan Soto (San Diego Padres), José Ramírez (Cleveland Guardians), Francisco Lindor (New York Mets),  Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atlanta Braves) and Rafael Devers (Boston Red Sox).

Not only have the many Latino players in Major League Baseball changed the game with their on-field play, but many of them have used their career success and accomplishments towards good causes.

For instance, Ortiz — a three-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox — runs the David Ortiz Children’s Fund which provides support to children with cardiac-related health issues in the Dominican Republic and New England regions.

The Mariano Rivera Foundation works towards helping impoverished families receive education which “will empower them for the future.”

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The impact of these elite Latino MLB players goes beyond the baseball diamond. So many of them are using their platforms and resources to help improve day-to-day life in communities around them.

Anthony Muñoz & Tony Gonzalez Inspired A Generation Of Football fans

Source: (Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals legend Anthony Muñoz, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was the heart and soul of the franchise for more than a decade.

The greatest offensive tackle in NFL history became the second Mexican-American to earn a spot in Canton. But keeping his quarterback upright and opening up running lanes for rushers was only part of Muñoz’s impact in football.

A 2019 ESPN article from Adam Teicher detailed how Muñoz inspired Tony Gonzalez, another Hall of Famer. Gonzalez is widely considered to be the best tight end ever. He’s sixth all-time in career receiving yards (15,127) and third in career receptions (1,325).

Gonzalez has Portuguese and Argentinian ancestry. In Teicher’s article, Gonzalez talked about how he looked up to Muñoz when he was young. On top of that, Gonzalez stated that he gets a lot of kind messages from Latino football fans who greatly inspired him.

“When I was younger, let’s face it, Latinos in the league were almost always kickers,” Gonzalez said. “But Anthony Munoz was definitely a guy I looked up to. I got to know him pretty well and Roberto Garza. But I always looked up to him and wanted to be like him. I was like him for awhile while I was playing and then it’s up to the next guy, like Victor Cruz.

“People, Latino people, come up to me and tell me all the time they played football because they watched me with the Chiefs and they looked up to me and they loved me when they were growing up. They thank me for representing Latinos in the NFL. They tell me I was their inspiration. I get that a lot.”

In Teicher’s article, Alejandro Ibarra also emphasized Gonzalez’s impact in sports. Ibarra leads a Kansas City Chiefs fan club in Mexico City.

“Anthony Munoz was first,” Ibarra said. “He was a symbol of Mexico for us. Tony Gonzalez broke the barrier and showed everyone a Latino player could catch passes and score touchdowns. That made him more influential. They brought more attention to Latino football players. People could relate to them.”

Gonzalez played for the Chiefs from 1997 to 2008. He finished out his final five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, even leading the franchise to three playoff berths including two NFC South division titles and an appearance in the 2012 NFC Championship Game.

Victor Cruz, whom Gonzalez mentioned in Teicher’s article, played a vital role in the New York Giants’ Super Bowl 46 championship season. Cruz, who was born to a Puerto Rican mother, talked about his desire to inspire a new generation of Hispanic players back in 2012.

“I think as this generation turns and guys like myself and other athletes, there are going to be Hispanic kids who are going to want to be quarterbacks and receivers and all that,” Cruz said.”

 

 

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