By Molly Duerig, WLP Intern
It’s no mystery why the Major League Baseball Players Association has announced a new component to its anti-discrimination policy that specifically denounces discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Many professional athletes are openly supportive of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
This Huffington Post article lists 28 such athletes, including Hudson Taylor, a three-time all-American wrestler from the University of Maryland who in January 2011 started Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization focused on uniting athletes who pledge to respect one another, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation.
As of now, no Major League Baseball (MLB) player is an Athlete Ally Pro Ambassador – someone who has pledged to promote the organization’s mission to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. Currently, Pro Allies range from NFL players and North American Soccer League members to collegiate lacrosse coaches and players.
Perhaps the MLB’s new policy will motivate players to join ranks with Athlete Ally, as well. Clearly, momentum is rising for equality in the professional sports world.
The MLB’s progress is in keeping with a growing trend of advocacy for gay rights in the professional sports world. In late February, the National Football League’s anti-discrimination policy was questioned, when Colorado tight end Nick Kasa revealed he’d been asked about his sexual orientation during his interview.
Kasa told ESPN Radio Denver that at the NFL Scouting Combine, he was asked questions such as “Are you married?” and “Do you like girls?” by an NFL team.
Later, the NFL investigated these claims made by Kasa, ones that were echoed by other draft-eligible prospects. The NFL took no official action, but reminded interviewers not to consider sexual orientation as a factor in hiring. It also cited the questions asked of Kasa as inappropriate for interviews.
Although many athletes identify as LGBT, relatively few professional athletes have come out as openly gay. LGBT rights organizations have blamed the policies and attitudes in sports that encourage athletes to cover up their true sexual orientations. The discriminatory questions asked of NFL players are, unfortunately, just one example.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, “both on the field and away from it.”
“We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins,” Selig said.
Last October, all 30 MLB teams “went purple” for Spirit Day on the 17th, showcasing their support and respect for the LGBT community.
The organization seems to be moving in a positive direction toward acceptance and support of LGBT folk.
Last August, the NBA became the first major sports league to receive sensitivity training from Athlete Ally, which has offered to train all major league sports teams on preventing bullying and promoting inclusion.
Hopefully, the MLB will also take Athlete Ally up on its offer now that it has officially spoken out against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The organization has nothing to lose – and everything to gain – for openly promoting inclusion and acceptance of all different kinds of players.
After all, true teamwork requires that kind of acceptance. Now we just look forward to the day when the MLB welcomes women baseball players onto its rosters.