An online petition is asking the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to honor Glenn Burke, the first openly gay Major League Baseball player, despite a previous refusal to do so. Around 22,000 signatures on the petition, as well as the (at least) eleven teams that have made It Gets Better videos, and the three MLB players and their families who posed for the NOH8 campaign in the spring, indicate that baseball fans and players support LGBT inclusivity within the sport.
Glenn Burke played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 1970s and was open with his teammates and the public about his identity. Thought to be “the next Willie Mays” at the start of his time with the Dodgers and the inventor of the high five (that’s right, he invented the high five), Burke faced much homophobia during his career. Explaining his leave from the MLB, Burke says in his autobiography, “prejudice just won out.” His journey, including his fateful battle with AIDS, was chronicled in the Comcast SportsNet documentary Out. The Glenn Burke Story last year.
Change.org is host to a petition that was created by Jeremy Redlien of New York. When Redlien first suggested that the Hall of Fame Museum create a permanent exhibit about Burke, an official told him via e-mail, “I’m sure you would agree that Burke’s story is not central to baseball history.”
Redlien does not agree and neither do the 22,000 people who have signed the petition (a number that is continuously rising). To be one of the desired 25,000 signers, click here.
“Considering the significance of Glenn Burke being the first Major League Baseball player to come out, his legacy is comparable to that of Jackie Robinson,” the petition letter reads. “As baseball is our National Pastime, it is incredibly important that the Baseball Hall of Fame acknowledge and promote diversity within the sport itself.”
The petition site quotes Burke: “They can’t ever say now that a gay man can’t play in the majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it.”
Despite the anti-gay sentiments Burke experienced (including being offered a substantial bonus if he married a woman) and the Hall of Fame’s disregard of his role in MLB history, three current baseball stars have made a family affair of standing up against discrimination.
In the spring, San Francisco Giant and All-Star pitcher Matt Cain, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos teamed up with their wives (the Gallardos were also joined by their son) for the NOH8 campaign, a visual promotion of equality and silent protest against hate (or H8, as it were). Their participation was recently covered by Cyd Zeigler at Outsports.
While the Hall of Fame has yet to recognize the significance of Glenn Burke’s professional and personal life in the world of baseball, these players and Burke’s supporters represent a growing trend among athletes and their fans towards inclusivity. We hope that those being petitioned (including the Hall of Fame and Museum’s President, Vice President, and Senior Directors of Communications and Education, Development, and Exhibits and Collections) will recognize and contribute to this trend, and that more fans will give a virtual high-five to equality by signing the petition.