Kim Ng exemplifies the ‘short leash’ qualified minorities endure in white spaces

Kim Ng exemplifies the ‘short leash’ qualified minorities endure in white spaces

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Derek Jeter hired Kim Ng. Derek Jeter left. Ng is gone now, too. This isn’t about the Miami Marlins having a dysfunctional front office. It’s an example of how one historic minority employee’s time with an organization came to an end after a successful season — and less than two years after the minority employee, with more power, who hired her, stepped down.

People of color have to look out for people of color because most of the time people of color have no one to look out for them besides other people of color.

“I didn’t hire her to be historic. I hired her because she was the best person for the job,” Jeter said about Ng in October of 2021.

On Monday morning ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that “The Miami Marlins wanted to hire a president of baseball operations over general manager Kim Ng, leading to her departure from the organization.” Passan’s sources claimed Ng “would’ve been the No. 2 after constructing a playoff team.” The report came hours after it had been announced that the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations, and the first female GM in the history of the NBA, NFL, NFL, and MLB was leaving Miami after three seasons.

According to The Athletic, Ng said that she and Marlins owner Bruce Sherman “were not completely aligned” in their vision for the Marlins’ front office. “Last week, Bruce and I discussed his plan to reshape the Baseball Operations department,” she told the publication. “In our discussions, it became apparent that we were not completely aligned on what that should look like and I felt it best to step away.”

The idea that a woman, who many consider to be overqualified, had to wait around for a GM job for years, only for her male boss to allegedly desire to bring in someone over her is something that women saw coming — as it’s a frustrating feeling they’re all too familiar with.

This is what it looks like to be a woman working in sports — or pretty much any industry, anywhere. But this is also what it looks like to be a minority working in sports — or pretty much any industry, anywhere.

And while it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the president of baseball operations that Sherman wants to allegedly bring in will almost certainly be a man. You don’t have to be a savant to understand that whoever was going to be hired was also almost certainly going to be white.

Before Jeter hired Ng — which bears repeating because no white people had hired her to such a position — the Marlins were coming off a 31-29 record during the shortened pandemic year in which they won a wild-card game before getting swept by the Atlanta Braves in the National League Divisional Series. In 2019 they were 57-105, and were 63-98 the year before that.

Once Ng was in charge, the Marlins finished 67-95 (2021), 69-63 (2022), and were 84-78 this past season as they made it to the postseason before falling to the Philadelphia Phillies in the wild card.

It still wasn’t good enough.

What Ng experienced was a tale as old as time. Because despite which minority box, or boxes, you check in this country, and despite how good your resume may be, there’s always going to be a white person somewhere who thinks that there’s another less qualified white person who can do the job better than you/should control you.

When Jeter left the Marlins last year and stepped down as their CEO — selling his four percent stake in the team — he used similar language that Ng did in his reason why. “The vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead,” he said.

Jeter wasn’t just the person who hired Ng, he was her boss — which at times can give a minority a different sense of job security, knowing that the person above you understands what it feels like to be the “only one in the room.”

Whenever a person of color or woman makes history by being the first to do something, it automatically becomes a joyous, yet frustrating burden. One side of you is happy that you’ve accomplished a feat that no one else can claim. However, the other side of you understands how frustrating it is that in these times these feats still need to be accomplished — on top of the fact that the majority of people around you will have no idea of the burden you carry as the first, given that you know there won’t be a second if you aren’t outstanding in your role, as good won’t simply be enough.

Jeter gave Ng a chance that no one else was willing to. And once Sherman changed the vision that both of them signed up for, they left. A smart person would wonder why the vision needed to be changed. A minority already understands that we’re rarely part of white people’s long-term visions.



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.