|David Denson of the Brewers minor leagues|
Photo courtesy of Michael Gallacher / Missoulian
Hopefully these days will be in the past soon,when it is considered 'historic' for a professional athlete to come out as gay. For now though we can celebrate and congratulate when it happens, for it still is a big deal as much as I wish it was old hat by now. For Milwaukee professional baseball team the Brewers, history was made when Davd Denson, minor league player, though not on the Brewers major league roster still an MLB pro with the organization, came out as gay.
The full story, relating how he came out in response to derogatory comments made at and about him can be read at the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel in a great article by Tom Haudricourt. It tells an unfortunately typical tale of locker room shenanigans that use various derogatory terms, and how he overcame them, but what I found most interesting was the support he got from the club and the league.
Not to take anything away from Denson, who was the one in the end deserving of the ultimate credit and support, but he nay not have done so if MLB hadn't had the foresight and vision to make the process easier for players. Last July, MLB created a special position within the league for former major-leaguer Billy Bean, called the Ambassador for Inclusion. One year after Major League Baseball issued a policy prohibiting players from harassing and discriminating against others players based on their sexual orientation, Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former outfielder Billy Bean as MLB's first Ambassador for Inclusion. Per MLB Bean, who made public that he is gay in 1999, would 'provide guidance and training related to efforts to support those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community throughout Major League Baseball. He will work with Major and Minor League Clubs to encourage equal opportunity in accordance with the joint MLB-MLBPA Workplace Code of Conduct.'
Bean's story itself is a fascinating one, more of which can be read at MLB's announcement of his post, which relates how he quit back when tolerance was less rather than play the sport he loved amidst the hate-filled locker room banter. It is common practice among us who could never play professional sports to say 'its only a game' but to the players it's their job, their vocation, to which they apply themselves as hard or harder than most do to their regular jobs and we should recognize that their experience should be equal to that of any workplace with the same equality and acceptance expected of any company.
It is great to see that Selig and MLB saw the need for this type of position and took the steps to anoint someone like Bean to it. Besides the work he does in the players' and teams' privacy, I found that he is allowed to be very public about being the voice of equality via a blog on MLB's website where he is listed as a columnist. Giving him this public forum within the structure of the league with which to promote equality and celebrate advances is huge. For the Brewers organization and players to follow through on being open and accepting is great to see, and makes my homerness beam with pride - even if the team is located in Helena, MT its still run by the Milwaukee Brewers after all.
Best of luck to Denson moving forward as a teammate and player and to Bean in his role as Ambassador of Inclusion. May they both help make the league, and with it other sports, a more accepting place for all people regardless of race, nationality, religion (or not - check out this ESPN the Mag article on Arian Foster's difficulties being an atheist in the NFL), and sexuality.