TAG | NFL
The New York Daily News is reporting that ‘sexual orientation’ protection will be added to the discrimination clause of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to this week by Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association.
The NY Daily News notes that this follows the NFL which also did so earlier this year (and if my breaking the NFL story had any part in pressuring the MLB to do the same, my job here has been successful), but that the provision was readily agreed upon by both the MLBPA and MLB negotiators.
Tico Almeida, President of Freedom to Work, has been keeping me abreast of this development in the MLB (thankfully, because my school schedule gets more and more demanding by the day).
Almeida pointed out to me the importance of having these protections at the league level because so many teams (13 of the 30, to be exact) are in states that do not protect employees from anti-gay harassment, firing, or other forms of discrimination.
This is the note Almeida sent me:
“In a majority of states in our country, it is still perfectly legal to fire someone just for being gay, and 13 of the 30 Major League teams are located in those states that allow anti-gay firings,” said Tico Almeida, President of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. “No player should have to fear harassment or workplace retaliation if he were to publicly come out as gay.”
American League teams in states that allow anti-gay firings, harassment, and other forms of discrimination:
1) Cleveland Indians (Ohio)
2) Detroit Tigers (Michigan)
3) Kansas City Royals (Missouri)
4) Tampa Bay Rays (Florida)
5) Texas Rangers (Texas)
National League teams in states that allow anti-gay firings, harassment, and other forms of discrimination:
6) Arizona Diamondbacks (Arizona)
7) Atlanta Braves (Georgia)
8) Cincinnati Reds (Ohio)
9) Florida/Miami Marlins (Florida)
10) Houston Astros (Texas)
11) Philadelphia Phillies (Pennsylvania)
12) Pittsburgh Pirates (Pennsylvania)
13) St. Louis Cardinals (Missouri)
Thus, with the addition of the language in the CBA, players on those teams would now have at least some protection (and I assume some remedy defined in the CBA) that otherwise would not have existed.
Another step forward!
By my count, now the NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS will all have this provision. And I would assume, if the NBA lockout ever ends, a similar provision will be added to that league’s CBA as well.
[EDIT:] Another person who must be thanked in this process is Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center Dallas. On October 31, 2011, McDonnell and RCD sent this letter to Major League Baseball encouraging them to follow the NFL in making this change to the CBA.
The McDonnell/RCD letter was well-received by the MLB offices as shown by the responses from:
(1) MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, which stated, “Your letter is very constructive and I appreciate your taking the time to write me.” and from
(2) Robert Manfred, Executive VP of Labor and Human Resources of MLB, who wrote, “While it is my policy not to comment on matters currently on the table, I think it is safe to say the issue you have raised will be addressed in a positive way.”
While the public focused on the major financial issues resolved in the new NFL collective bargaining agreement—revenue sharing, the salary cap, and a rookie wage scale—one change was the most newsworthy in my view: adding “sexual orientation” to the list of classifications protected from discrimination.
The language from the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement Article VII, Player Security, reads :
Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.
The new language in the 2011 CBA, now moved to Article 49, reads:
Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.
(For a little linguistic aside, note the addition of the serial comma prior to “or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.” While this could just be a stylistic change in drafting to include the comma, which is best, I need to add—I didn’t check any other lists of more than three items anywhere else in the document for consistency—it makes me chuckle a bit thinking that someone may have insisted on adding the comma to clarify that it wasn’t “sexual orientation or activity” that was being protected.)
Anyway, I remember reading the language in the 2006 CBA a few years back and hoping that this change would be made in the new agreement. In fact, if I may, in my second post on this blog, on November 7, 2009, I asked the question, “What will it take for an athlete to come out?” writing that one of five necessary developments would be increased support from sports organizations.
In that post, I wrote:
I understand that the sports industry is a money-making machine and that each league and team fears supporting gay rights would affect their bottom line. But what about the player’s associations? Do they have to wait for a player to come out in order to press for discrimination protections to be incorporated into the collective bargaining agreements? Obviously, they could do it now; there is just no pressure to do so. They act on what they know their players want, and without a player stepping forward for protection of gay players, they have nothing to act on. Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, but I’d think an organization with the purpose of protecting the interest of its members may act on the behalf of a silent minority. Maybe they haven’t thought about it.
Fast-forward to 2011 and it happened.
Honestly, with the focus of the lockout and labor negotiations being on so many financial matters, I did not expect any progress to be made on the issue. (It’s partially the reason I didn’t compare the language—which has been available for weeks now—until now.)
With that, I obviously was curious how it came to be.
Could it have been New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft?
After all, Kraft was one of the most integral parties in the CBA negotiations and has a history of supporting the LGBT community. Yahoo! Sports wrote an incredible piece about Kraft’s involvement in securing the new CBA, passing along this great bit: Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian wrote a letter to Kraft which read, “This CBA, and the great future it provides to the NFL, would not, could not have been done without you. Everyone in the league owes you a debt of gratitude.” Kraft’s support of the LGBT community has been documented before by this blog.
Maybe it was Ted Olson and David Boies?
Olson and Boies are the two lead attorneys of the case challenging the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California. They also were on opposite sides of the NFL negotiations (Boies with the owners and Olson with the players).
Could it have been Scott Fujita?
After all, Fujita is the NFLPA rep for the Cleveland Browns and is one of the most outspoken LGBT allies in the sport.
Thankfully, with Twitter making athletes more accessible these days, I was fortunate to exchange a few messages with Fujita. Hoping he might know, I asked him if he had any idea who brought it up, if there was any opposition to adding the language, or if there was any substantial discussion on the subject.
Not aware of any discussion on that. Our counsel is pretty progressive & on top of such issues, so I imagine this was worked out during the “lawyer” discussions when players weren’t around. There were multiple layers/rounds of discussions, and once Brady case was settled we entered into CBA related “union” discussions. At this pt players were in training camp, so we couldn’t be as involved, unfortunately.
Well, I guess it wasn’t Fujita. So maybe it was the lawyers. Or maybe it was Kraft. Or maybe someone we’d never expect.
And that being the extent of my investigatory journalism efforts (and connections), I/we may never know.
Regardless of how it came to be, the progress is there. Having explicit language protecting the class is a big step towards helping a player come out while actively playing. There may still be fears of abuse from fans or opposing players, but at least a gay player can be protected from being cut from a team, or from any other adverse action, coming from the organizational level. (I’m assuming there is some strong enforcement/remedy provision in the CBA to give the non-discrimination language some teeth.)
With allies like Kraft and Fujita in the game, we’ll get there.
I set up a slew of fantasy football leagues again this year (a NFL pick’em, NFL survival, NCAA pick’em, and a NFL standard fantasy — all in Yahoo).
I need some new, tough challengers! I won the 3 pick’em/survival leagues last year and got 2nd in the standard fantasy league (#1 was John – JackAttack). Bring it!
The password for all of the leagues is: widerights
Group ID: 21383
Group ID: 8783
Group ID: 7248
If you have any questions about how fantasy sports or any of the leagues work, don’t hesitate to email me.
Even if this would be your first time, I encourage you to join and I can talk you through it!!
I know I’ve been lax with the posting lately, and unfortunately, I don’t have much time to comment here. But this is a big step that is worth making an actual post about rather than merely posting it on Facebook or Twitter (which, by the way, you should be following on both for more regular and quick updates!)
Anyway, several MLB teams have created It Gets Better videos. The video, shown below, is included on the MLB.com YouTube channel as from the Mariners. But most notably, it includes a message from all of the professional Seattle teams.
The Seattle Storm (WNBA), Seattle Sounders (MLS), and the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) joined the Mariners with players represented in the video.
The Seahawks and their wide receiver Mike Williams become the first from the NFL to join the campaign. Big news! (Follow him on Twitter @BigMikeWill17 and say thank you!)
The message also specifically mentions the LGBT community, which is appreciated as a couple of the team videos have merely used generic “anyone who is bullied” language.
Check it out:
Three time Super Bowl Champion and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin made his most strong and public statement supporting the gay community. As part of the feature, Irvin revealed that his older, now deceased brother, Vaughn was a gay cross-dresser and discussed how the fear of any association with the gay community may have been one of the reasons he embraced the hyper-masculinized behavior during his playing days for which he was well known.
Irvin acknowledged some of the unfortunate stereotypes that drive behavior in male sports, “Growing up, whoever had the most women and the nicest car, he was the man,” he says. “So when you get in the locker room, you remember that. I’m gonna get all the girls so that everybody says, ‘Michael’s the man.’”
In addition, Irvin very honestly revealed how the knowledge of his brother’s sexuality and cross-dressing may have contributed to his womanizing behavior during his career: “maybe some of the issues I’ve had with so many women—just bringing women around so everybody can see—maybe that’s residual of the fear I had that, if my brother is wearing ladies’ clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic? I’m certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why I was making these decisions, and that came up.”
This sort of revelation (and the subsequent discussion) rarely occurs in sports because so few athletes are as willing as Irvin to reveal their private insecurities and the insecurities that are so prevalent in male sports culture. By opening up, we (or they: the media, academics, organizations, etc.) can begin to discuss these issues in more depth, hopefully working to change the culture in sports.
Even though he is not gay, Irvin acknowledged the weight of the burden in hiding the truth that someone close to him was gay, “I was afraid to even let anyone have the thought. I can only imagine the agony—being a prisoner in your own mind — for someone who wants to come out. If I’m not gay and I am afraid to mention it, I can only imagine what an athlete must be going through if he is gay.”
But in recognizing how tough that must be for a gay closeted player, Irvin is committing his voice and support: “If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him,” says Irvin. “That’s why I do my radio show every day. When these issues come out, I want to have a voice to speak about them. I think growth comes when we share. Until we do that, we’re going to be stuck in the Dark Ages about a lot of things. When a guy steps up and says, ‘This is who I am,’ I guarantee you I’ll give him 100% support.”
In becoming and embracing his status as one of the most famous and well-known allies in all of sports, Irvin had very powerful and poignant words, with particular messages for the religious and African American communities.
Being passionate about gay rights is not always the easiest thing to do in any community, and I know Irvin has faced much opposition for doing so dating back to his early days as a radio host in Dallas.
I was fortunate to live in Dallas while he was on the air (he now is on WQAM in Miami). I can tell you that he is one of the most passionate and forthcoming personalities you will ever hear on air. He would have Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler (author of the Out Magazine feature) as a regular guest on the show and would defend doing so any time a caller would have something negative to say about having a gay guy as a guest on the show.
And, believe me, he certainly never shies away from sharing his love of God or talking about religion either. During his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he referenced God 14 times. The next most referenced “person” was his wife, Sandy, who was mentioned twice. In wanting to eradicate homophobia in every corner of American society, Irvin “points to churches that have skewed the word of God to persecute those who don’t share their dogma.”
Irvin has his own approach for using his faith as a source to drive his advocacy: “The last thing I want is to go to God and have him ask, ‘What did you do?’ And I talk about winning Super Bowls and national titles,” Irvin says. “I didn’t do anything to make it a better world before I left? That would be scary.”
Irvin also “shakes his head at the black culture he says has gone adrift in a sea of homophobia.”
I had an interesting exchange with a young African American male this past week, so I’m especially grateful for Irvin’s timely message: “I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”
I can’t say enough about how incredible this feature was. I especially want to thank Cyd Zeigler from Outsports for this piece (as well as 3 of the other 4 pieces for this special issue). The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association just gave their 2011 Excellence in Journalism Awards. If Cyd isn’t nominated (and I’ll say win, pending what happens in the next 10 months) for this piece, it will be a travesty.
The Media + Internets Response
As you may know if you’ve read my blog at all, I’m always fascinated by how these types of pieces are received by the media and the general populace on the Internet. I often pay particular attention to what news outlets say (if anything at all), how anonymous users comment on articles, what is the response on Twitter, etc.
ESPN and Sports Illustrated passed on the story without adding much commentary. Not the ideal, but for the two leading sports news outlets, their first priority is to get the story posted. We’ll pay attention to what the main personalities of each has to say in the coming days.
Yahoo!’s Shutdown Corner noted Irvin’s passion, called it a “fascinating read,” and then closes with a nice jab to DeSean Jackson (thus, showing their support for Irvin’s message).
Deadspin called the feature “fantastic” and then compared the story to the DeSean debacle (a story which they broke) noting that they hoped the Irvin feature would “lead to more progress on the issue.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote my favorite piece on the feature thus far. Florio declares that PFT “admires” Irvin and that “it’s important for more and more people in positions of influence to express similar views, given that gay players certainly have played and are playing every type of professional sport, striving to keep that secret for fear of being bullied, berated, and ultimately rejected.”
Florio adds (and may I toot my own horn a bit, something I wrote in my 1st substantive post on this blog, “What will it take for an athlete to come out?”): “Tolerance needs to come from the top of the organization, along with a commitment at each level of management to insisting on an attitude and atmosphere of respect.” Amen, Florio.
Michael Irvin’s interview in Out Magazine is ______. What do you think? http://bit.ly/qg6mLp #IrvinInOut
Naturally, I decided to sample the mentions of @NFL for a bit to see the response. I’d say it was about a 80% positive, as you can see below.
RaiderFREAK86 (and 5 others): gay
Burrberri: ground-breaking #IrvinInOut
NewTattoo: It’s refreshing to have a sensible opinion from a(n ex) football player, given the ‘outpourings’ by more recent players.
RealFLYTE: Unselfish? Thoughtful?
WideRights (oh right, that’s me!): Amazing. Timely. Important.
Pattylopez1: awesome. Equality should be supported by all. #IrvinInOut
Rsjwilson: a step in the right direction
SherylA_Stephen: Michael Irvin’s interview in Out magazine is HONEST!
Rick_silva: Michael Irvin’s interview is disgraceful. This country is in a lot of trouble. I’d hate to be a kid growing up today. #IrvinInOut
Its_Sare_Marie: I think it’s progressive & very admirable of Michael Irvin to open himself up like that #IrvinInOut
Ncasports: A great statement for equality!
FarrisMom1: absolutely awesome
ACCEric: Pretty Cool
MsPinkLA: Wow, this story may save someone’s life!
AdamPalukaFOX23: a good thing.
Valvee74: AWESOME. About time.
JohnTCpsu: Absolutely, positively awesome.
Whew. And that was just during about an hour. Outsports reported that Adam Schefter, Steve Wyche, other colleagues (including Albert Breer, an OSU alum!) tweet support for Michael Irvin and that “Michael Irvin” is a top-5 trending term on Twitter today.
For Additional Reading
The rest of the features in Out Magazine weren’t as lengthy as the one on Irvin but they still provide a glimpse into the motivations of 4 other tremendous sports allies. Cyd Zeigler also writes 3 of the 4 features:
Ben Cohen: Action Man, by Aaron Hicklin
Hudson Taylor: Mission Possible, by Cyd Zeigler
Mike Chabala: The Equalizer, by Cyd Zeigler
Nick Youngquest: Full Exposure, by Cyd Zeigler
Additionally, Outsports has a little background piece to the Irvin article that talks about how it came to be.