Openly gay athletes have been a heavily discussed topic in the world of sports over the past year or so, with NBA player Jason Collins and incoming NFL player Michael Sam coming out. A big concern for these athletes is how they will be treated in a locker room setting and how their teammates will react to their sexuality. Today the MLS implemented measures against the discrimination of gay athletes, joining the NFL and Major League Baseball who have made similar strides to fight workplace discrimination in sports.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been the man leading the charge to change the thinking of how locker rooms in professional sports operate. Schneiderman has recently worked with the NFL and Major League Baseball to add new measures against harassment and discrimination in their leagues and now he has done the same with Major League Soccer. His stance is that professional sports are a workplace like an office or any other workplace setting and should be held to the same standards and not allow discrimination of any kind.
The new measures that the MLS have implemented look to strengthen their existing policies on discrimination. The first of the new measures will be posting the code of conduct in every locker room across the league both home and away. Another change will be how the MLS handle their harassment and discrimination complaints, they will now designate one person in the league office to handle all complaints of that nature. The sensitivity training of the players will also be expanded to more thoroughly cover the issue of discrimination against gay athletes. The season has yet to start so it is not known yet if these steps will be enough, but it is a step in the right direction as the landscape of professional sports begins to change more and more.
Because the MLS does not have the profile of the NFL or NBA it went under the radar of the sporting world when Robbie Rogers became their first openly gay player last year. Rogers had been playing in Europe for the last few years until last MLS season when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He announced that he was gay while also retiring from the game in February 2013 stating he did not want to answer questions about his sexuality every interview and become a distraction to the team. In May 2013 Rogers signed with the Galaxy the day after NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay and became the first openly gay athlete in a top US sports league.
The issue of openly gay athletes in sports will continue to be a story in the national media and the more the leagues embrace it the more it will be accepted. The MLS joining the NFL and Major League Baseball in implementing measures against discrimination of gay players shows that the leagues are aware they need to change along with the times. Players will continue to come out in the future because of the bravery of players like Rogers, Sam and Collins and the leagues know they need to adapt to that and make the workplace safe for this type of diversity. It will be a nice change of pace in the future when things like this are not news and having openly gay athletes in sports is an accepted normality.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Wall Street Journal