Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig today announced a set of actions that will alter the lives of baseball players and the trajectory of MLB teams for future generations.
The league has welcomed openly-gay former MLB player Billy Bean back into their fold with a position to work with the league to implement a program of greater inclusion for LGBTQ players in baseball. Billy, a hero to me and to all of us, has been appointed as MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion. Billy is a former outfielder who played six seasons in the majors and came out publicly in 1999, four years after he retired from baseball.
The Commissioner openly apologized to Billy for the failure of MLB to have a program of inclusion in place while he was a player. Had such a program been in place, noted the Commissioner, perhaps Billy would not have quit the game to protect his life.
Billy will provide guidance and training to support LGBTQ athletes in Major League Baseball, including working with major and minor League clubs to encourage equal opportunity in accordance with the joint MLB-MLBPA (MLB Player’s Union) Workplace Code of Conduct.
Billy also will develop educational training initiatives combating sexism, homophobia, and prejudice and will be present at annual industry events, including the Winter Meetings and the MLB-MLBPA Rookie Career Development Program.
MLB has also partnered with Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization with a mission to educate and activate athletic communities to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports and to champion LGBTQ equality. Athlete Ally has been doing work with the league over the last year.
In his remarks, the Commissioner likened this moment to the historic baseball days of Jackie Robinson, who, as the first African-American player, led the Dodgers to a World Series in 1955 and was a vocal champion for African-American athletes, civil rights, and other social and political causes. Billy will develop a work environment within the league that will welcome the first out active baseball player and those in the future. He will be present to assist, advise, and support players in understanding the importance of their words and actions in being role models across the country and around the world.
It was my great honor to meet Billy on a joint panel at his first public event in 2000. We have been friends since then. He makes a point to attend NCLR events and is a fan of the work of this organization. NCLR is here to assist Billy in any way he may need. His journey has been arduous and he has managed his LGBTQ activism with thoughtfulness and care. We are proud that MLB chose such a gifted person and talented baseball player to lead this important work.