Yesterday was GLAAD Spirit Day, and most teams in Major League Baseball participated by tweeting and changing their logos to reflect their support for kids who are being bullied because of their sexuality (or their perceived sexuality):
— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2013
It was a small act on baseball’s part, but a meaningful one. And given baseball’s traditional leadership role in promoting inclusivity (being the first major sports league to integrate and to recruit international players), it was highly appropriate and welcome. Sports culture can be intimidating for LGBT kids, and baseball sent a message that everyone is welcome at the ballpark.
Sadly, as you’d expect, not everyone was on board with the welcoming message. It didn’t take much looking to find one franchise’s fans singled out. And then another. And another, for vocalizing their objection to baseball’s position. It’s not worth the mental anguish to read through them to find examples, nor do they deserve the attention. If you want to read them, go ahead and click the links above, and do some searches on Twitter and Facebook. My faith in humanity is already too shaken to wade too deeply into that pool.
Their reasons ranged from wanting to keep baseball pure of politics (which is silly, because not only is everything political, but baseball has been particularly politicized over the years), to accusing the league of kowtowing to political correctness, to outright hostility toward the queer communities. It was, at once, entirely predictable and disappointing.
But it’s also pretty universal. Major League Baseball spans a continent, with fans in virtually every corner of it. And every team’s fan base has a healthy share of bigots and intolerants to go with their overwhelming contingent of compassionate, rational, and accepting supporters. The bullying epidemic that has only intensified with the invention and popularization of social media is not a local or regional problem. It’s an international one.
That’s precisely why highlighting the knuckledraggers in one fan base is counterproductive. Sure, there are certainly some regions and fans that are more likely to object to Spirit Day than others. But when we get to point and laugh (or shake our heads disapprovingly) at those “backwards” communities, we are encouraged to feel like we’re setting the curve. That we’re doing well enough. That at least we’re better than those schmucks. Make no mistake, these articles are specifically designed to give us that smug self-satisfaction.
In reality, no community is free from this problem, especially in schools. We shouldn’t get to feel superior while there are still kids suffering down the street from us. GLAAD and Major League Baseball aren’t raising awareness for this problem so that we can say we’re better than Atlanta, or Minnesota, or Arizona, or Boston. They’re doing it to hopefully save lives. Good for them. We should do likewise. Sure, what others say to and about vulnerable children is important, and we should work to stop that. But we still have an even greater responsibility to speak out just like Major League Baseball did in support of these kids.