Not so long ago, I came down pretty hard on Major League Baseball for not being at the head of the non-discrimination parade. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, if the first openly gay player in major professional team sports was a baseball player?
Well, that didn't happen. But this press release from last week is, in its own small way, heartening:
NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) Executive Director Michael Weiner today announced new efforts to protect current and future MLB players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. Following discussions with the Attorney General's office, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to undertake new actions to reinforce its workplace discrimination policies, including the creation and dissemination of a Workplace Code of Conduct to be distributed to every Major and Minor League player and posted in each locker room conveying MLB's non-discrimination policies. The League also agreed to implement new training opportunities for team officials and create a centralized complaint system for reporting incidents involving harassment and discrimination.
"I expect all those who represent Major League Baseball, as a social institution that has important social responsibilities, to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game's diverse players, employees and fans deserve," Commissioner Selig said. "We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation."
Executive Director Michael Weiner said, "The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation."
Hey, better late than never.
Seriously. Of course I would love to have seen these statements two years ago, or five years ago, or ten. But Major League Baseball has never been ahead of the times; why should we expect anything different now.
Commissioner Bud is essentially a politician. A French politician once said, "There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." In this case, Selig's people -- baseball fans, mostly, along with the writers and broadcasters -- are ready for the end of discrimination against gay and bisexual players, so now it seems that Selig's finally ready, too. Maybe he's always been ready, but just wasn't willing to step out in front of the people.
For he is their leader.