CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox will bring racial equality to the forefront this weekend, capped by Saturday's seventh installment of the Civil Rights Game.
Started as an exhibition contest in 2007 in a minor league ballpark in Memphis, Saturday will mark the fifth consecutive year the Civil Rights Game will be a regular-season contest played in a major league ballpark.
It will be the third time the game has included the White Sox, who will play host to the Texas Rangers in the 6:05 p.m. CST start from U.S. Cellular Field.
"There's a responsibility that you have when you are part of a community as we are," White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams told reporters. "Yes, we want to give our fans a winning ballclub. We also want to give them wins in the areas of community service and the areas of fan friendliness and just servitude overall. And a diverse experience, because not everyone gravitates or is interested in the same things. And at the same time, a little bit of an education too."
In 2001, Williams became just the third African-American general manager in baseball history, while also pairing with then-manager Jerry Manuel to give baseball its first African-American GM and manager combination.
For Williams, the White Sox's participation in the game isn't about addressing the dwindling numbers of African-American players as much as it is about maintaining an awareness on equality.
"I hope that people start to begin to recognize that civil rights is not something of the past, that it is something that is continuous," Williams said earlier this year. "It is something that is evolving to the degree that there are still fights for civil rights in many different avenues of our life. You can look at the pages of our politics and what's being fought for in Congress right now and the Supreme Court, and you can see that there are still limitations on people's civil rights."
The White Sox first took part in the Civil Rights game in 2008 when they played the New York Mets in the final tuneup before the regular season at AutoZone Park in Memphis. They were involved again the following season when the event was attached to a regular-season contest for the first time. The White Sox played at Cincinnati in an interleague game on June 20, 2009.
For White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, having his club take part in the game was a no-brainer.
"The majority of people in this country were probably not alive when [Martin Luther] King was killed and certainly were not alive when Jackie Robinson came into the game, just like the majority of people weren't alive for the Holocaust," Reinsdorf said during an April press conference to announce this year's game. "We just can't have people forgetting what went on if we're going to get to a country where we truly have an equal opportunity for everybody."
A number of other events surrounding the Civil Rights Game will take place in Chicago, starting with Friday's Baseball and Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater. The afternoon event will include the MLB Network's Harold Reynolds as well as Williams and Thomas Tull (producer of the movie "42"), among other guests.
The MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon will take place Saturday at the downtown Marriott, with former two-sport start Bo Jackson and Grammy Award-winner Aretha Franklin receiving 2013 Beacon Awards. Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson will take part in the luncheon, as will Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson.
Also taking place Saturday is a "Wanna Play?" youth baseball clinic at Armor Square Park that will included coaches from the Bulls/Sox Academy.
For more information on the Civil Rights Game and surrounding events, visit whitesox.com.