In the last year, professional sports have taken a sharp turn towards inclusiveness for gay players. Major advocacy organizations have sprung to life and formed partnerships with players and leagues, and the first active, gay athlete has finally revealed himself as NBA veteran Jason Collins.
But there’s been one league curiously absent from the discussion: Major League Baseball.
Not one MLB player is a formally affiliated LGBT ally.
The rest of America’s big four have multiple players who speak out against homophobia in sports: Chris Kluwe from the NFL. Sean Avery from the NHL. Chris Seitz from the MLS.
But some baseball players are paying attention to gay issues. And a few are speaking up.
SFGN and the Marlins are teaming up with the You Can Play Project. Prior to the first pitch at 7:10 p.m. vs. the St. Louis Cardinals, there will be a social mixer with Marlins players and a panel to discuss LGBT issues in sports. Seven youth-centered organizations will benefit directly from the event: The Pride Center, National Voices for Equality Education & Enlightenment (NVEEE), Pride South Florida, Safe Schools, Sun Serve, and You Pride Band of South Florida.
One of whom is Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy. Last April, McCarthy posted a series of furious tweets shaming the Anaheim Angels for depicting two men on the kiss cam.
“Everybody had a giggle, and it hit me — what the hell are we laughing at?” McCarthy said. “Mostly I was annoyed… I stewed on it for a few innings.”
While McCarthy, 29, said a majority of the feedback he received for the tweets were positive, there is an aversion for players to publicly address LGBT issues.
“I know there’s a lot of guys who feel the same way I do, it’s not something they’re against… It’s just feeling one way and putting your neck out there is a different issue,” McCarthy said. “The way the clubhouse works, the nature of the game, its difficult.”
The nature of the game is rooted in tradition. It’s the oldest league of the big four. Shaking up institutionalized standards in America’s past time can be hard. Baseball fans had a hard enough time letting Albert Pujols leave the St. Louis Cardinals. But the same point proves that anything is possible — and eventually, everyone will adjust.
Jessica Quiroli, a veteran minor league baseball reporter, said the league needs to get behind LGBT education and instill a system of consequences. Most of all, it starts with the executives who are signing those multimillion dollar paychecks.
“Players often have very immature attitudes about sexuality and that goes for homosexuality,” Quiroli said. “The more players are encouraged to embrace diversity, and punished when they use derogatory language, the more progress will be made. The higher ups have to encourage it, though. And there has to be discipline for acting/speaking otherwise.”
In some cases, the MLB has been forthcoming with addressing homophobia. Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play Project, was invited to speak to the entire Toronto Blue Jays roster on LGBT issues after shortstop Yunel Escobar had a gay slur written in Spanish on his eye black. Burke suggested the language barrier plays a role in getting gay inclusive messages through to MLB players. A majority of baseball players only speak Spanish.
“The problem is two fold… When you need a translator, it adds a layer of difficulty,” Burke said. “Advocacy groups say it’s hard enough as it is to be sensitive of your language in English.”
For McCarthy, he’s open to a progressive attitude in the ballpark.
“As far as I know, there isn’t any that exists inside baseball,” he said. “It’s something I’d like to see happen.”
IF YOU GO:
Who: The Miami Marlins and the You Can Play Project
What: You Can Play Night / LGBT and Allies Youth Night
Where: Marlins Park, 501 NW 16th Ave, Miami
When: Friday, June 17 at 7:10 p.m.