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MLB targets bullying with ‘Shred Hate’ program

11 D.C. schools participate in first year of project



Trea Turner, gay news, Washington Blade, shred hate

Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner meets school kids participating in the Shred Hate program on the field at Nationals Stadium. (Photo courtesy MLB)

On May 23, about 250 students from 11 D.C. public and charter schools met Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner at Nationals Stadium, and about 25 of them joined Turner on the field shortly before the start of the game between the Nationals and the San Diego Padres.

In addition to talking about baseball, Turner talked to the middle and high school students about a subject he said he knows about personally – bullying and a program sponsored by Major League Baseball and the ESPN TV sports network to prevent bullying in the nation’s schools.

“I think two things,” Turner told the students, according to a joint statement released by the Nationals and MLB. “Be yourself, you are who you are and be proud of it,” he said. “And rely on your friends and your family.”

As the students listened intently, Turner added, “A lot of people that bully or whatever it may be, people that don’t know you, classmates or a lot of stuff is from people who don’t know you and what your values and morals are.”

Joining Turner in the gathering with the students that day was Billy Bean, a gay former Major League Baseball player who now serves as MLB’s Vice President for Social Responsibility and as Special Assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

The students’ visit with Turner and Bean at Nationals Park and the invitation they received to watch the Nationals game that day was part of a new program launched in January 2017 by Major League Baseball, ESPN, and ESPN’s X-Games sports competition called Shred Hate.

The Shred Hate program included visits by school kids to the ballparks in three participating cities during its first-year launch – D.C., Chicago, and Minneapolis. But the major component of the program took place in the approximately 35 schools in those cities along with others in Colorado that were selected for the 2017-2018 school year.

A non-profit San Francisco-based organization called No Bully, which has been training schools on how to put in place bullying prevention and eradication efforts for more than a decade, has been retained by MLB and ESPN to carry out the Shred Hate program in the selected schools.

“The No Bully System is a set of interventions to prevent and stop bullying and cyberbullying in school and after school programs,” according to a March 2018 statement released by ESPN. “The school leadership team receives coaching on how to lead school culture change,” it says.

“No Bully staff trainings motivate and teach school faculty how to interrupt and stop student bullying, and parents are trained to support the school’s anti-bullying initiative,” the statement says.

On its own website No Bully says it has developed and refined its bullying prevention system through years of partnering with schools across the country. It says schools that implement the ‘No Bully System’ are solving 90 percent of their bullying incidents. A key component of the system, according to No Bully, is direct involvement of the students who become members of a school “solution team” that responds to bullying incidents.

“The school joins with parents to prevent student bullying and cyberbullying through building a culture where every student is accepted for who they are,” the group says.

Bean told the Washington Blade that Trea Turner is one of as many as a dozen MLB players that have so far interacted with students from the schools participating in Shred Hate in D.C., Chicago, and Minneapolis during the program’s first year. In addition to the Washington Nationals, the participating players were with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins.

Several of the players, including Turner of the Nationals and Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, have recorded videos that are being used as public service announcements, Bean said. He said the PSAs have been shown on the video screens at the ballparks as well as on some local TV stations.

“Every kid deserves go to school and have fun and just be themselves,” Buxton says in the PSA he recorded. “You know, there is no place in this world for bullying. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of the things that make you happy,” he says.

“It was important for me to let kids know you are somebody and to never give up because nothing’s impossible,” Buxton continues. “Together, let’s stop bullying. Choose kindness and shred hate.”

Asked whether the Shred Hate program, including its training programs in the schools, addresses the issue of anti-LGBT bullying, Bean said, “Absolutely. LGBT kids are persecuted and bullied at a higher percentage than those who don’t identify as LGBT.”

He added, “We would not have picked a partner that did not have a clear understanding of the time and place for those conversations” related to anti-LGBT bullying.

Lynne Seifert, a former school teacher and school administrator in Colorado who participated in the No Bully program in schools where she worked, now serves as No Bully’s partnership manager and coordinator for the Shred Hate program. During the past year she has visited schools in all three cities involved in Shred Hate, including some of the 11 D.C. schools, where she set up training sessions for teachers and administrators.

“We go in and we train the staff how to interrupt conflict and bullying in a very non-confrontational way,” Seifert told the Blade. “And we do that by using their social vision or their social contract,” she said, noting that the system encourages all students to agree to an unwritten “contract” and vision aimed at discouraging bullying and making it “cool” to be against bullying.

Seifert said that among the D.C. schools participating in the program were Washington Global Public Charter School, Center City Public Charter School, Washington Latin Public Charter School, Hardy Middle School and Hope Community Public Charter School.

Bean said Shred Hate officials conducted a survey of the principals at the 35 schools participating in the program this year in the three cities, and the results have been encouraging. Among other things, attendance at the schools increased an average of six percent over last year, he said.

“And they have decreased school suspensions by 50 percent,” said Bean. “They had a total of 175 detentions last year in those schools and they were down to only 47 this year,” he said. “So we’re seeing some across the board numbers” that indicate the program’s goal of “creating and sustaining a bully-free zone” is advancing, Bean said.

An MLB statement says the Shred Hate program was officially launched in January 2017 at the start of the X-Games in Aspen, Colo. The statement says among the schools in Colorado that became the first to participate in the No Bully System initiated by Shred Hate, incidents of bullying decreased by 94 percent.

Among the X-Games athletes participating in the Shred Hate program was U.S. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, who also has recorded an anti-bullying PSA. Kenworthy, who’s gay, became the subject of international news coverage in February during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea when he kissed his boyfriend after completing a skiing competition.

He drew further attention when he declined an invitation by Vice President Mike Pence to meet, saying he disagreed with Pence’s and the Trump administration’s policies on LGBT issues.

“I think that Shred Hate is an awesome topic for X-Games to tackle,” Kenworthy said in the PSA he recorded. “In my later life when I was coming out I felt like I’ve been a victim of bullying, especially cyberbullying,” he said.

“So anyone out there who is experiencing bullying, remember your value. Remember your love. It’s a lot harder to go through bullying if you’re by yourself, so find an ally, talk to a teacher or parent or a friend,” he said while standing on a slope holding his skis.

Bean said the program expects to be in more than 50 schools and in three new cities for the 2018-2019 school year.

“MLB is extremely happy with the achievements of the Shred Hate Program after its first year,” Bean said. “We have worked very hard alongside our partners ESPN and No Bully and we have great optimism for the year two expansion of the program, and the potential to positively impact the lives of thousands of students,” he said.

“That success has only fortified our determination to grow the program and bring it to more MLB cities each year,” he said.



Los Angeles Dodgers apologize, reverse decision on disinviting drag group

Pride Night to take place June 16



Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Facebook photo)

In a tweet Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise reversed last Wednesday’s decision to disinvite the LA Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from a scheduled “Community Hero Award” presentation for the team’s annual Pride Night on June 16.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath announced on Twitter Monday afternoon after the Dodgers apology, and its accompanying public acceptance by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, that she had been pleased to have assisted in facilitating a meeting between the team, the Sisters and stakeholders in the LGBTQ community’s leadership both non-profit and political to come to an understanding.

In a Monday afternoon phone call with the Los Angeles Blade, Horvath explained that important dialogue between the Dodgers and other parties had commenced. She said that earlier on Monday, in a meeting at Dodger Stadium, the stakeholders met to work out a solution.

“I was honestly moved and grateful by the commitment in the room by all the parties, especially Dodgers president and part-owner Stan Kasten,” Horvath said.

In addition to the representatives from the Sisters drag group, the meeting was also attended by Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner, LA Pride President Gerald GarthBoard, West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, state Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, and state Sen. Caroline Menjivar. Zbur and Menjivar attending on behalf of the California Legislative LGBTQ caucus.

Horvath indicated that she felt it was a critically important meeting with all stakeholders as they worked through the anger, sense of betrayal, and misgivings over the Dodgers actions. She pointed out that she was convinced that the Dodgers president was genuinely remorseful and apologetic.

In an email Monday night, Zbur told the Blade: “It was clear that today’s meeting followed meaningful internal dialogue among Dodgers management, with whom I had numerous frank conversations during the week and weekend. I’m pleased that the Dodgers came to understand the genuine hurt and injury caused by the decision to exclude the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — one that did not reflect our Los Angeles or California values.

As the only LGBTQ members of the Legislature representing Los Angeles, Senator Menjivar and I participated in the meeting at the request of the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus to express the serious and uniform concern of Democratic members of the California Legislature.

After hearing the perspectives of the Sisters, L.A. Pride and the LGBTQ+ leaders in the room, the Dodger management apologized unequivocally for their mistake, re-invited the Sisters to participate in the event, and engaged in a discussion about the steps that they could take to reconcile with LGBTQ+ community.

I was proud of the Sisters, who demonstrated  resilience, strength and a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community during the discussion, and I was impressed with the sincerity of the apology by the Dodger management.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center had called on the team to cancel Pride Night altogether. After the Dodgers had made their public apology, Hollendoner issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Dodgers to publicly apologize to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and roll back their exclusion from next month’s Pride Night is a step in the right direction, and we support the Sisters’ vote to accept their much-deserved Community Hero Award.

Last week’s debacle underscores the dangerous impact of political tactics by those who seek to stoke the flames of anti-LGBTQ bias at a time when our rights are under attack. We must continue to stand together as a community in defense of the rights and recognition of LGBTQ+ people in Los Angeles and beyond.

The Center is filled with gratitude to our Los Angeles community, who mobilized to support the Sisters, all of which compelled the Dodgers to ultimately do right by LGBTQ+ people everywhere. We are proud to stand with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and will join them at Pride Night to honor their many important contributions to our movement.

The Dodgers’ course correction and the conversations we have had with the organization’s leadership since last week demonstrates the version of allyship we have come to expect from the team over the years. The Center will always strive to hold our corporate partners accountable — which means so much more than waving a rainbow flag.” 

The team announced last week it would drop the drag group from its celebration of LGBTQ+
fans, the day after a letter-writing campaign was launched by the anti-LGBTQ Catholic League. Catholic League President Bill Donohue accused the team of “rewarding anti-Catholicism” by honoring the group.

“The Catholic League has been the leading critic of this bigoted organization for many decades,” Donohue wrote on the organization’s website. “… These homosexual bigots are known for simulating sodomy while dressed as nuns.”

He added, “Just last month, they held an event mocking our Blessed Mother and Jesus on Easter Sunday.”

One of those writing, was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who also sent a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, stating that he was questioning whether the League is “inclusive and welcoming” to Christians. 

At the time, the Dodgers said they removed the group from their Pride Night celebration “given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the Sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits … of Pride Night.”

On Saturday, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken invited the drag group to Angels Pride Night in a tweet, as reported by the Blade: “I’m inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to join me for @Angels Pride Night at Anaheim Stadium on June 7. Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers’ decision,” tweeted the Mayor .

Neither the Angels nor the mayor’s office confirmed that invitation as of press time, and also did not comment on the Dodgers’ reversal.

However, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange took aim at Aitken for extending the invitation to the drag group:

“The decision to openly embrace a group whose demeaning behavior is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian is misguided and disrespectful to the sisters of the Catholic Church who minister in Orange County and selflessly dedicate their lives to God’s underserved people,” said Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange on Monday.

“We cannot condone any actions that have historically shown such high levels of disregard for the sincerely held beliefs of the faithful,” he added.

“Our June 7th Pride Night is part of Major League Baseball’s league-wide effort to raise awareness and promote acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. As in the past, OC Pride has assisted our Organization in the planning of this event as well as outreach to all fans throughout Southern California,” an Angels spokesperson said on the mayor’s invitation.

The Sisters have not indicated publicly if they plan to attend the Angels Pride Night as of yet.

Sources tell the Blade out gay Dodgers Vice President Erik Braverman was being advised on this crisis by Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler. When contacted by the Blade, Zeigler declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Dodgers did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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Vice president meets Brittney Griner before first game back

Russia released WNBA star from penal colony late last year



Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, with Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, on May 19, 2023, before Brittney Griner's first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp. (White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Vice President Kamala Harris accompanied by her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, greeted WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury star center Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle Friday night before Griner’s first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp last December.

According to the White House Press Pool reporter traveling with Harris, she and Emhoff arrived at Arena in downtown Los Angeles and met with the Griners prior to the game between the LA Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

After conversations between the four, the vice president met with the rest of the Mercury in their dressing rooms before meeting with host team the LA Sparks in theirs.

According to the Advocate’s reporter Christopher Wiggins, in her meeting with the Mercury, the vice president said:

“I came here to talk to the team to congratulate you on exhibiting excellence in every way. You are some of the finest athletes in the world, and to do what you do every day shows that it is right to have ambition,” she said.

“It is right to have aspirations. It is right to work hard. It is right to compete when you know you have put everything into it; when you have trained, when you have discipline, when you have intelligence and when you have brilliance.”

She added, “It makes me so proud as vice president of the United States to go around the world talking to folks about a variety of issues, and one of the subjects that does come up is the WNBA. [The world] is watching what you guys are doing, lifting up the excellence of the finest athletes in the world.”

After meeting both teams Harris then showed up at center court to cheers from about 10,000 people and received an honorary jersey from the Sparks.

The Sparks beat the Mercury 94-71, although the Advocate pointed out: “Griner’s return to the floor and doing what she loves was more important than the result. Six rebounds, four blocks, and 18 points rounded out her performance.”

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West Virginia University basketball coach apologizes for gay slurs

Bob Huggins used the “F word” in a radio interview discussing a rival team when he was coaching men’s basketball at University of Cincinnati



Bill Huggins (Photo Credit: West Virginia University)

The coach of the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball team said he’s sorry for homophobic slurs he used to described fans of a rival team during a radio interview on Monday. Administrators said they are reviewing the incident and Coach Bob Huggins said he is prepared to face the consequences. 

“All those fags, those Catholic fags,” Huggins said, when he was asked about Xavier University on Cincinnati station 700WLW’s “Bill Cunningham Show.” Huggins was discussing his 16-season tenure with the University of Cincinnati and the school’s intracity rivalry with Xavier.

The host asked the former coach of the Bearcats about a moment during a Crosstown Shootout game against the Musketeers. Huggins said Xavier fans threw sex toys onto the court.

“It was transgender night, wasn’t it?” asked Cunningham, making a wisecrack since there was no such thing. “It was the Crosstown Shootout,” Huggins replied. “What it was, was all those fags, those Catholic fags, I think, threw them.”

Huggins added that the fans would “throw rubber penises on the floor and then say they didn’t do it.”

“They were envious they didn’t have one.”

The Mountaineers coach issued a statement of apology within hours of those comments:

“Earlier today on a Cincinnati radio program, I was asked about the rivalry between my former employer, the University of Cincinnati, and its crosstown rival, Xavier University.

“During the conversation, I used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase that there is simply no excuse for — and I won’t try to make one here.

“I deeply apologize to the individuals I have offended, as well as to the Xavier community, the University of Cincinnati and West Virginia University.

“As I have shared with my players over my 40 years coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way. I am ashamed and embarrassed and heartbroken for those I have hurt. I must do better, and I will.”

The university condemned Huggins’ comments and said in a statement, “The situation is under review and will be addressed by the university and its athletics department.” 

Former Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay councilmember, told WKRC-TV he’s neither surprised by the comments nor by the fact that they were celebrated on Cunningham’s show.

“I feel sorry for him, he holds that kind of hatred for people that are different in his heart, because that’s clearly where it’s coming from,” said Seelbach. “I get angry because I’m a Catholic man, I am a graduate of Xavier, and I’m gay.”

Seelbach says he believes most Catholics don’t have the same views as Huggins and Cunningham.

“I want him to say that to my face, because there’s a lot of us who are taxpaying regular citizens who happen to be Catholic and gay who don’t appreciate it, and I don’t know if he would have the courage to say it to our face,” said Seelbach.

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