Diversity’s Next Frontier

If you’re like me, you hate being called a derogatory name. How do you like it when someone calls you out for being different than they are – but in the tersest of words? In keeping with using clean language on the MLBlogosphere, I won’t list those words. It’s best that we nod our collective heads and recognize them as daggers thrown against a civil society.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson heard the most destructive of those words. They were hurled by anyone who detested the sight of a black man in a Major League uniform. Despite a calm demeanor, Robinson was a volcano of rage. He could have erupted, but Branch Rickey explained to Robinson that such retaliation would run counter to integrating the sport for all Americans. By the end of his career, Robinson worked hard to improve conditions for black players in baseball as well as to remove racial inequality in American society.

Before Jackie was Hank Greenberg. Faith has always been a divisive force in this country. At the time of my mother’s birth, being Jewish in a mostly Christian country was considered as evil as fundamentalist Islam is today. Falsehoods in the interpretation of scripture pegged Jews as the killers of the Messiah around the turn of the first millennium. Yet Greenberg was not a stereotypical archetype. He was athletic – and a gentleman. Through Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, faith was never as an excuse to discriminate against a highly talented ballplayer.

You’d think we learned from Jackie and Hank. Fans didn’t know what to think. when players from the Caribbean and Latin America began playing in the Majors. Instead of race, you had language and nationality to process. That confusion was furthered by the presence of players from Asia, many of whom do not speak English. Heroes such as Robert Clemente, Fernando Valenzuela, and Ichiro Suzuki, helped overcome borders and language through a game perfected in America.

I always believe that someday our game will indeed reflect its fans, one of the most diverse groups of men and women ever to follow a professional sport. This game speaks for everyone who have arrived at its gates, plunked down cash for concessions, and brought their friends, family and significant others along for the experience. This also hits personally as I am amongst the last American citizens looking for total equality and protection under the law.

Athletes are never comfortable with something that is not accepted fully by the general society. There are places where relationships between two consenting adults have been codified, despite inequities amongst jurisdictions. Fewer are the places where one who identifies with whom they love are given the full writ of protection under the law, but elsewhere they are considered less than a full citizen. This is perhaps why we have not experienced full acceptance of a homosexual or bisexual athlete in American team sports.

An umpire in the 1980s challenged this notion decades ago with negative results. There have been some shoe dropping without names attached and denials of a person’s sexual orientation. In some respects, this game operates under an old guard mentality, especially in the realm of protecting against anything other than heterosexuality. This mentality – I call it the Kennesaw Mountain Landis paradigm – believes that a ballplayer is as good as his obedience to the book of Leviticus. Keep in mind that this paradigm worked against all other forms of diversity: race, nationality, language and non-Christian faiths. Eventually, they were defeated.

The conditions for gay and bisexual ballplayers are slowly loosening. When Ken Griffey, Jr. and Joe Torre say they would welcome an out gay/bi ballplayer on their team, you would think the door would be open for someone coming out. Yet, a survey polling 100 MLB players concluded that the game would be only halfway welcoming to a gay or bi ballplayer. Even today, players like Billy Bean came out after they stopped playing. Then, there was Glenn Burke who experienced the worst of it through his death due to complications from the AIDS virus.

Naturally, I would welcome an out ballplayer. Sadly, I sometimes find it tough being an out gay sports fan – let alone one blogging in the MLBlogosphere. Yeah, I’m single. Most of my friends love sports at least casually. They sometimes join me at ball games. In the subculture I reside in, many people may not be aware that we are gay/bi men – that’s of course if you avoid the latest film offerings coming soon about said subculture…or, listen to Kevin Smith’s Smodcasts.

Though I understand some might think my life is bogus as a human being because I am not a member of heterosexual society, I hope you can take away one thing from this post: We’re not the evil human beings as presented by FOX News or by the Tea Party Movement. We don’t all love RuPaul’s Drag Race or think every man that comes in our radar is a date for the evening.

I’m just a guy – like most guys who come to the ballpark – enjoying and celebrating the game for what it is. I just want to see my people gain equality on all level playing fields. I want a player I can identify with and root for. I want my money, friends and support of my team welcomed at the ballpark like everyone else. Isn’t that too much to ask?


  1. pete@widerights.com

    Hey Randy, thanks for sharing this.

    Being a sports fan should know no bounds. We’re all welcome, even if the industry, leagues, teams, and fans don’t always make it easy for us.

  2. crzblue2

    Like Peter said Randy, being a Sports fan should know no bounds.
    Did you ever read the book about the umpire Dave…aghh the last name escapes me. It was a very good read about his umpire years and being an outcast for crossing the strike line and being gay.

  3. theheirloom

    Thank you, Emma!!!!

    I happen to have Dave Pallone on my Facebook feeds. We actually debated a bit earlier today on what to do with Joe West in light of the fines levied on the Guillen/Buehrle incident. We never met, but Pallone is indeed someone I look up to from this game in context to what I do on here.

    BTW, Pete has a great blog that combines the business of sports, legal issues and GLBT activism. He is also a law student at Ohio State – and very astute in his views!


  4. theheirloom

    Comments from Facebook:

    Gary Carter: Good job, Randy. Well-reasoned, thoughtful and Lord knows it’s overdue.

    Fred Vaughn: Thoughtful enough for The Heirloom (to me, at least)

    Sue Taylor: Really got me thinking, Randy – mainly about the sorry fact that I hadn’t really thought about it before…I think it’s pretty necessary – how about something old-school media, like a newspaper article? I wonder how many openly gay baseball wunderkinds are out there in high school at the moment and what their MLB prospects will be in a couple years – profiling them would be another good article, putting some young faces alongside the discrimination you’re talking about.

  5. theheirloom

    Chris Leon from Facebook: Randy… it’s not only stating a point with respect to the heterosexual world, but it’s also stating a true point. We live out of fear, and it’s because of the rest of the world who lives off the peer pressure and stereotypes, we as homosexual fans/bisexual fans endure every day. I’m glad it’s being stated. Thank you so much! 🙂

    I love your quote about the fact that we’re not all girly and stuff. That point needs to definitely be stated, because I’m certainly nowhere near that….

    When I moved to Chicago, for example… The first thing I did — I went to visit the sports venues… US Cellular Field, Wrigley Field and United Center. I worship those more than Boystown. It’s for the love of sports in general, because they really do bring people of all kinds together.

    We’re in a world where it’s present. Gay people are everywhere and the stereotypes need to go away. Its people like Jackie Robinson who made a difference and dealt with everything thrown at them. You may need t…o do the same in writing the article on a site like MLBlogs, Randy.

    The fact of the matter is, the jokes are everywhere. Some people thought Mike Piazza was gay, even. Again, stupidity rules baseball’s fans with mere assumptions and at the same time, I believe it also somewhat ruined Piazza’s career.

    Its times like this that I’m glad at least there is a gay owner in baseball. As you know, Randy, Laura Ricketts of the Cubs is an open and out lesbian.

    But there are those in the industry who came out… But in other sports.

    Take the example of Brandon Burke. He came out in the hockey world at the college level. Sure he passed away at a very young age, and it was not related to homosexuality… but now people are seeing how the effects trickle in… His father is Toronto GM Brian Burke. Even a man with his stern nature understands that he is still Brandon’s dad. He loved Brandon as a father should, which made me cry a lot when I read about that. I consider Brandon as a pioneer in the hockey world, and we’ve been a heck of a lot closer ever since. But we’re still not there yet as a whole. We still need our pioneer, our champion to tell our story, like Jackie Robinson or Sandy Koufax.

    However, the concept also needs to go mainstream and a professional player needs to change the game’s landscape in coming out. In doing so, it creates awareness to the world we live in and gives people something else to think about – it’s the players that produce that play professionally, no matter what creed/color/religion/sexual preference, etc.

    If a player did, he’d be an inspiration to us all. I’d even wear his jersey as a matter of support, even if he wears the sweater of another team, even a rival club. His coming out is that significant, and it tells me that your team sees the man for his play and not his sexual preference. Thats utmost respect right then and there.

    Of course, though, I only wear jerseys with my own number on it cause I know I won’t get traded, lol. Until I find someone I can officially root for, I’ll keep my jerseys on.

    I’d like to know who those teams who accept us are, and the ones who don’t. It really could create the disparity in baseball, and as a gay man, may provide an idea of what venues to visit and which not to.

    I’d love to come to those who welcome us and thank them for their support.

    To the ones who don’t like gay people, I want to know about what they want us to do to get them to change their ways, because they know that for one, baseball is a business, and their clients could also be baseball fans…

    We’re known for gay baseball leagues here in Chicago and for those who travel, some people may not want to go to the ballpark cause of a simple opinion, especially like a poll…

    Honestly Randy, you could start a revolution in doing so. It will need to be done someday, so it might as well be a professional writer like you to do the honors.

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