Tucked away in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is the addition of the words "sexual orientation" to the existing anti-discrimination provision. The CBA in effect from 2006-2011 stated, in Section XV:
The provisions of this Agreement shall be applied to all Players covered by this Agreement without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.
That list now includes the term "sexual orientation."
It's a step in the right direction for Major League Baseball, which joined the National Hockey League, National Football League and Major League Soccer in prohibiting discrimination against players on the basis of sexual orientation. Shortly after baseball included such language, the National Basketball Association followed suit in their new labor deal. Baseball's CBA now provides greater workplace protection for gay players than does federal law and many states' laws.
Whether and when this provision is invoked during the five-year term of the new CBA is anyone's guess. A player would have to be gay and the subject of discrimination based on his sexual orientation for the provision to come into play. As far we know, there are no openly gay players currently in the majors. There could very well be players who are gay and who have shared that information with other players, the GM, or other team personnel, but not more widely. We just don't know.
But the message is clear: MLB players, if you are gay, you are (officially) welcome in our league, on our teams, and in our clubhouses. And heterosexual MLB players, you will welcome gay players into the league, on your teams and in your clubhouses.
The clubhouse. That's the key, isn't it?
Because an MLB clubhouse -- like an NBA or NFL locker room -- is a sacred place, a place for uncensored, heterosexual male behavior, however crude, rude and lewd. A place with a lot of naked men. Good-looking, muscular, fit naked men. Oh, it's not going to be easy to make an MLB clubhouse a comfortable place for gay players, and for heterosexual players with gay teammates. But MLB and the players' union have (officially) agreed: "It's important, and it must be done."
Not so much when it comes to women in MLB clubhouses, however. Women members of the media, in particular.
Women reporters are, of course, permitted in MLB clubhouses during press availability, along with their male counterparts. And while most of the crude, rude and lewd clubhouse behavior goes on behind closed doors, the players don't always just turn into well-mannered, polite guys as soon as the press shows up.
Now, under MLB's new Media Dress Guidelines, it's the responsibility of women reporters to not do anything to stir the sexual pot in the clubhouse.
A committee of MLB executives and media members issued these new dress guidelines after studying the issue for more than a year. As reported by the Associated Press, an impetus for the guidelines was the flap caused by Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz, who wore "sexy" clothes during a September 2010 visit to the New York Jets training camp and was subjected to catcalls and the like from players and coaches. There were also concerns about "skimpy" attire worn by reporters covering the Florida (now Miami) Marlins.
The result? Women reporters have been told to eschew tank tops, skirts and dresses more than three inches above the knee, and sheer and see-through clothing. Oh, there are guidelines for male reporters. No ripped jeans. No team logos. Actually, women have to avoid ripped jeans and logos, too.
I've never been in an MLB clubhouse as a member of the press, but I've worked for twenty years in professional office environments. I understand that there's an appropriate way to dress, depending on the situation. But when women are subjected to catcalls and other sexually-suggestive behavior, telling them to "cover up" doesn't really solve the problem. It simply reminds the women that they are seen, at least partly, as sex objects and that they need to keep "it" in check, lest the libidinous men be tempted.
There's a disconnect here.
Sending a message to players to welcome gay teammates and to treat them fairly -- no matter how sexually uncomfortable that might be -- is the right message. Good for the players' union and MLB for moving in the right direction. But MLB shouldn't undercut that message by telling players, "Don't worry, we'll protect you from yourselves when it comes to women in the clubhouse."
How about this? Players: you're grown men. Yes, you're sexual beings. We all are. Learn how to handle your sexuality in a way that is respectful to others.
Is that really so hard?