MLB's Press Conference on Inclusion

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to Fanfest. Welcome to a very special day for Major League Baseball. Very shortly we will be making a major announcement, the theme of which is inclusion. Once those involved in that announcement join the stage we will get that underway.

Hello. I'd like to welcome everyone to a very special day here at Major League Baseball. Today with me on the stage are Commissioner Selig, six year Major Leaguer Billy Bean, and Lutha Burke, the older sister of the late Major Leaguer Glenn Burke.

We'll be making two announcements today, and the two are linked by the concept of inclusion. Over the last several years, Major League Baseball has set the goal of being more inclusive and taking important, concrete steps to achieve that very important goal.

In 2011, Major League Baseball and its players added nondiscrimination protection based on sexual orientation to its collective bargaining agreement. This was a meaningful and important step in professional sports.

Last year, MLB and the MLBPA collaborated once again, this time with the State of New York, to ensure protection for current and future players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Every player in the Major and Minor Leagues is now subject to a workplace code of conduct that's formally aimed to promote equality and inclusion. The attorney general of the New York state, Eric Schneiderman, said of baseball's efforts: By making a clear stand against discrimination in our workplace, our national pastime is showing national leadership in the fight to promote equal justice for all.

Today marks yet another significant step, and I would like to bring up the Commissioner of Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig, for an important announcement.

[Applause.]

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you very much. I am honored that Billy Bean and Lutha Burke have been with us for our All-Star festivities.

All-Star week is a celebration of our sport. Because of the presence of Lutha and Billy, today is a day for us to celebrate in a very meaningful way. Lutha, I am so delighted that you are here. Your brother was a pioneer. We remember him to this day and we want to tell his story.

We want the people who make a living in our game to be who they wish to be. As an institution, we will do all we can to support them. In that spirit, we are proud to announce our hiring of former Major Leaguer Billy Bean as a consultant who will serve as Major League Baseball's first Ambassador of Inclusion.

[Applause.]

COMMISSIONER SELIG: Billy is going to work with us on a wide range of issues in an effort to educate Major League and Minor League players and many other constituents within our game. He will be a resource for our players beyond at our rookie career development program, at the Winter Meetings and other industry events.

Billy will play a key role in advising our office in not only gay and lesbian efforts, but on all aspects of being inclusive.

As Jeremy noted, today marks another important step for us. I am proud of our industry's united stance, but the reality, not just in baseball, but in all of our society, is that we can never do enough to ensure respect and inclusion for everyone.

Diversity is a hallmark of our sport, which is fortunate to have an inherent ability to bring people together. The people of our sport have a responsibility to act with a kind of respect and sensitivity that our game's diverse players, employees, and fans deserve.

Our staff has truly enjoyed getting to know Billy over the past few months. He has many friends in the game today, including many people that he played with. We've had constructive conversations about building inclusive environments.

I wish that our game had someone in place to whom Billy and Glenn could have turned when they played; a friend, listener, a source of support. That's why I am so delighted to make this announcement today.

Our game is more than just a national pastime. We are a social institution. No individual better exemplifies that stature than the great pioneer who changed our game and our society, Jackie Robinson, a symbol of tolerance and the power of one guy. Jackie Robinson just wanted a number on his back.

This is a game of equal opportunity for all, and I believe Billy will help us preserve that. I think it is wonderful that members of our game will turn to Billy, and I know he will be an eager listener and someone who can help us in numerous ways.

Lutha, we are pleased to honor the memory of your brother. And Billy, you are a valued member of the baseball family, and I am honored in welcoming you back to Major League Baseball in this very significant new capacity. Welcome to both of you.

[Applause.]

BILLY BEAN: Thank you, Commissioner Selig. I am very humbled and honored to be here today.

As a young player, I was trying to play with a very difficult secret, and I was living a life of deception and secrecy from my family, my friends, the people that loved me, and the people I loved the most, as well as my teammates.

And at the time, after 10 years of playing in the league, I felt the best decision was to quit and walk away than to reach out, ask someone for a little guidance, a little help, or even talk to my own family. And it wasn't much long after that, after I had walked away, that I realized how much I loved baseball and what a terrible mistake that felt like. And for the past 15 years of my life, I have been dedicated to try to make sure that no young athlete has made that same mistake. Because once you are unable to play, you realize what a gift it is, what an honor it is.

And today I'm very proud that MLB is recognizing the social responsibility and the importance of this decision to provide and ensure an equitable and inclusive workplace. And I want to make sure that everybody understands that the history, the integrity of baseball is never going to change.

Today is about giving our young players a chance to understand their responsibility as role models that this league gives them. They are thrust into a big, shiny, wonderful world as young men, and a lot of them have not been exposed to the same things that all of us outside of the game have been.

And that's the responsibility that I am going to take very seriously. It's not here to change the way people think, ask you to be friends with someone that you're not friends with; it's just to give everyone who is a part of the MLB family a chance to be the very best they can be.

I didn't give anybody that chance. I didn't feel like there was a resource out there for me, and that is going to change for every player, for every coach, umpire, manager, every stakeholder. Everyone involved in something like this, they're going to know that they have a place to go if they choose to go there. Someone to talk to.

And for me to be asked to come back by the Commissioner's office to be a part of baseball, it a tremendous honor and one I take very seriously. And I love baseball. I am a baseball player. I walked away. I have been away for a long time. But if you ask anyone who ever played, that never changes.

Last night, the Commissioner was very gracious enough to invite me up to his suite to watch a little bit of the Home Run Derby and meet some people, and I got a chance to meet Hank Aaron. And I was thinking to myself, Hank Aaron was asked to be a role model in a very difficult time in the Civil Rights Movement. He may have never expected that to be part of his life. But because he is a great baseball player, people looked up to him. What he said mattered.

And these young players, our veterans, our young ones, Minor Leaguers, we are going to give them a chance to understand that what they say and what they do matters to the fans all around this country. Especially in today's day and age with social media, every word, every action is documented. And I've learned firsthand what it means when someone says something negative, maybe as a joke, something sexist, something that was not meant for anyone else to hear, that it is damaging to someone when they look up to that person.

So today I just think that baseball is proving their history will remain intact and they are going to continue to lead instead of follow and watch by the sidelines.

It is a tremendous honor for me to be here, and I thank the Commissioner very, very much for allowing me this opportunity.

[Applause.]

THE MODERATOR: On behalf of everyone, Billy, welcome back to baseball.

Another member of the deep and rich baseball family is a player named Glenn Burke. He played for the Dodgers and the A's from 1976 to 1979. At that time only Glenn's team knew that he was gay. Unfortunately, Glenn died of complications from AIDS in 1985, and Billy wrote his book entitled "Going the Other Way" in Glenn's memory.

We are very honored that the pioneer that was Glenn Burke, his sister, Lutha Burke, has joined us here today. And Lutha, I would like to invite you to say a few remarks.

[Applause.]

LUTHA BURKE: Hello. I am usually used to being in the background, not the forefront. But there are a couple of things that I would like to say.

I would like to thank the MLB for honoring my brother in such a fashion; that makes my family and myself very proud. And I would like to thank Glenn's family and his friends and his fans, or his fans and his friends, because Glenn considered his fans his friends and his friends his fans.

I have no doubt that Glenn would be very happy today and would probably wonder why all the folderol, because when you are just busy trying to live a life and be a decent human being, and play the sport as best you can, with all the respect you can, it should be a done deal or an easy deal. And for that I would like to thank you very much and thank MLB for having myself and my daughter, to honor or stand in for him. Thank you.

[Applause.]

THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Lutha, and thank you, Billy, and thank you to the Commissioner. A big round of applause for this historic moment in Major League Baseball.

[Applause.]

THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for your attention, ladies and gentlemen, as we continue with our announcements today. Again, so significant and so important, the next portion of today's program addresses a different partnership that Major League Baseball has been working on and forging over the last year.

For his remarks on that new partnership, MLB Chief Operating Officer, Rob Manfred.

[Applause.]

ROB MANFRED: Good afternoon. For the last year or, so we have been working extensively with a not-for-profit group, Athlete Ally. The purpose of Athlete Ally is to end homophobia and transphobia in sports.

Over the past year, Athlete Ally has been very active in our space. They were present at the winter meetings in Orlando, they were involved in the rookie career development program that was held last January. They participated in the diversity summit that Wendy Lewis, who is here with us today, coordinated in New York in May.

And today we would like to announce the next step in our relationship with Athlete Ally. We are forming a strategic alliance, the purpose of which is to provide education and training on respect and inclusion in our workplace. Athlete Ally will work not only with players, but also with front-office personnel on these issues.

Major League Baseball and Commissioner Selig are extremely proud of the efforts that we have made in the area of inclusion. The announcement welcoming Billy Bean back to Major League Baseball as our Ambassador for Inclusion is an important one.

In addition, we have been working with various groups involved in the LGBT community to develop an internship program. We'll have an intern at 245 Park in the Commissioner's office, as well as at MLB.com. I'd like to especially thank Bob Bowman, the C.E.O. of MLB.com, for his support of this effort. I'd also like to thank Hudson Taylor for his assistance in identifying qualified candidates.

As Commissioner Selig said earlier, it is very important to all of us that the national pastime remain a symbol of inclusiveness as we move forward. Thank you very much.

[Applause.]

THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much, Rob. And as the day presses on, as this new partnership strives forward, let me introduce you to the founder of Athlete Ally, Hudson Taylor. Hudson, come on up.

[Applause.]

HUDSON TAYLOR: I want to start by thanking Rob Manfred, Commissioner Selig, and all of Major League Baseball for their continued commitment to creating a welcoming workplace and fan environment, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The principles of respect and inclusion have always been central to the identity of baseball. And Athlete Ally is honored to partner with the league on continuing this legacy.

Over the last year, Athlete Ally has had the privilege of working with players and personnel on respect and inclusion. We have been inspired by these conversations and interactions and look forward to continuing this strategic alliance so every athlete, employee, and fan knows that MLB's commitment to the LBGT community is second to none.

Creating inclusive cultures requires explicitly inclusive actions. Today's honoring of Glenn Burke's legacy and of his family, the league's hiring of Billy Bean, its announcement of LGBT internships, and this strategic alliance with Athlete Ally shows baseball is committed to creating an inclusive culture.

Thank you, Rob, and Commissioner Selig, for your continued leadership. Thank you, Glenn Burke and your family, and Billy Bean, and really, every LBGT athlete, every LBGT coach and fan for bringing this issue to the forefront by sharing your experience with the world.

And lastly, thank you Major League Baseball, for inviting Athlete Ally to join you on this journey to making the sport of baseball welcoming for all. Thank you so much.

[Applause.]

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes this historic day. Thank you, Rob, thank you, Hudson. Enjoy the rest of your day.