August 28, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Area sports teams adopt gay-inclusive policies
Washington Nationals, gay news, Washington Blade

Nationals Stadium on opening day (Photo by Michael Myers via Wikimedia Commons)

Local professional sports teams continue to make strides towards protecting their gay employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

A spokesperson for the Washington Nationals noted to the Washington Blade the team’s policies and procedures “are designed to support the provisions” of the D.C. Human Rights Act that ban discrimination based on more than a dozen factors that include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Baltimore Orioles have a zero-tolerance policy for anti-gay harassment and discrimination as outlined in Major League Baseball’s Workplace Code of Conduct.

“Harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation are against MLB’s values and will not be tolerated anywhere in the major or minor leagues,” the policy reads.

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The Baltimore Ravens have also adopted a policy that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The franchise repeatedly defended then-linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s advocacy for marriage rights for same-sex couples after state Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) urged Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti that Ayanbadejo “should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base” after he learned he had donated two Ravens tickets as part of a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser.

“Brendon is permitted to express his viewpoints,” team spokesperson Patrick Gleason told the Blade before the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl. “The Ravens have always supported his right to free speech.”

The Washington Wizards did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment, but the collective bargaining agreement the NBA reached in 2011 includes sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination policies. The league also has those protections in place for its employees.

Both NBA Commissioner David Stern and Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld applauded Jason Collins after he came out as gay in an op-ed published to Sports Illustrated’s website in April.

“We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Grunfeld said. “He’s been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientations.”

The Washington Capitals did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment, but the National Hockey League’s anti-discrimination policy has included sexual orientation since 2005. The National Football League’s handbook states harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation “are contrary to our values.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights Sports Director Helen Carroll told the Blade that more fans are asking professional sports teams to adopt LGBT-inclusive policies.

She said she feels Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe of the Oakland Raiders and other athletes who back marriage rights for same-sex couples have contributed to this increased support. Carroll added societal shifts in support of LGBT rights are also a factor.

“It has put everything front and center in a brand new light,” she said.

Teams host LGBT fan nights, support anti-discrimination campaigns

Pat Griffin, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

Last year’s Night Out at the Nationals was sponsored by Team D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Team D.C. organizes LGBT fan nights that take place during Wizards, Nationals and Washington Mystic games and Washington Kastles matches. Ayanbadejo and the Orioles each made a video for the “It Gets Better” project against bullying.

The San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox and Seattle’s four professional sports teams are among those that have also made their own “It Gets Better” video.

Dwayne De Rosario of DC United, Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake appear in a gay-inclusive anti-discrimination campaign that Major League Soccer launched last year. AS Roma in July backed the “Don’t Cross the Line” initiative that also seeks to combat racism in professional soccer before they played against each other during the MLS All-Star Game that took place in Kansas City, Kan., on July 31.

“The response has been really well received from the soccer community,” de Rosario told the Blade during a recent interview. “A lot of people are on board and want to see certain things that are involved in sports out of sports.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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