Major League Baseball’s policy preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation is about to get stronger. MLB commissioner Bud Selig, the MLB Players Association, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will announce enhancements to the league’s non-discrimination policy Tuesday ahead of the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field, the Associated Press reported Monday. Baseball first added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy during labor negotiations in 2011, but the new policy will actually put it into action by developing a code of conduct that will be distributed to every major and minor league player while also creating training and education programs for players. It will also lay out guidelines for reporting and dealing with harassment and discrimination, according to the AP.
Baseball doesn’t have any active openly gay players, but it has had both gay players and owners in the past. Billy Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after his retirement, Glenn Burke was open to his Los Angeles teammates in the 1970s, and former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy came out in 2012. And after the NBA’s Jason Collins and Major League Soccer’s Robbie Rogers came out earlier this year, and amid reports that multiple NFL players have considered coming out, the stronger policy is aimed at being “ahead of it instead of behind it” and creating an environment that would welcome players, executives, and other employees who are gay, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura said told the AP.
Schneiderman previously helped the NFL bolster its sexual orientation protections this summer, when the league agreed to add posters outlining the policy to every lockerroom, conduct training sessions for players and employees in hiring positions, and improve its reporting policies. Still, both the NFL and MLB could improve their policies even more by making it clear to fans that they won’t tolerate discrimination from crowds either. Still-closeted players and those who are now out have said that their major concerns aren’t with how teammates will react but how fans will. Posting notices in stadiums, making announcements, or taking other actions to make it clear that teams and the league won’t abide by discriminatory fan behavior is important both in fostering a positive environment for gay players and for LGBT baseball fans.
This isn’t just about baseball — it’s further evidence of a major shift in sports. The NFL, NBA, and MLB have all added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policies, and the NHL has partnered with the You Can Play Project to advocate for LGBT equality at all levels of sports. Athletes like Collins, Rogers, Brittney Griner have all been largely welcomed by their teammates, leagues, and fans, and straight players like Brendan Ayanbadejo and players’ unions are out front in advocating for equality both inside and outside sports. That has bled all the way to apparel companies like Nike, which is now producing a line of shoes and clothes promoting equality and endorsing athletes like Griner to model men’s clothing and take the brand directly to a community that sports largely ignored just a few years ago. The world of sports spent a long time lagging behind the larger LGBT equality movement, but through efforts like these, it isn’t only catching up but is trying to take the leadership role it always could have had.