The MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities—or RBI—program, which aims to build communities where inner-city youth and underrepresented minorities can participate in baseball and softball, recently held a conference in Orlando, FL. The conference hosted one session that dealt prominently with the issue of LGBT athletes, inclusion, and participation in sports.
The session included appearances by the openly-gay former NFL player Wade Davis, Jr. representing the You Can Play project, and GLAAD's Director of News and Field Media, Aaron McQuade. Along with Davis and McQuade, the conference hosted writer and activist Darnell Moore, who co-authors a bi-monthly column on Huffington Post's Gay Voices with Davis, Jr. called "Tongues Untied".
McQuade opened by addressing the attendants on the current atmosphere surrounding LGBT youth in schools and sports programs nationwide. He gave the coaches advice on how to best create an LGBT inclusive environment for their respective teams, and explained the harmful impact of the phrase "that's so gay" and the condoned use of anti-gay slurs, because they not only affect the direct target, they also affect any gay people within earshot, who are hearing their identity used as an insult.
Davis, Jr. and Moore presented an interactive demonstration that asked the participants to assume the roles of several different young people, to explore the different ways issues of sexual orientation and gender identity can intersect with a young athlete. The demonstration's goal, said Davis, Jr. was to help the participants identify with an LGBT youth struggling to harmonize sexual and/or gender identity with the world of sports. In addition, the demonstration aimed to convey an invitation to LGBT youth. As Davis, Jr. said, he hoped the conference would help to, "reach out to LGBTQ young people and invite them into sports".
After the demonstration was over, Davis, Jr. said that he had been contacted by an MLB team to conduct similar demonstrations in their area. McQuade told OutSports: "MLB recognizes that it's not just the pro leagues that need to begin operating with more of an eye towards LGBT inclusion."
Fostering a community of LGBT inclusion for today's youth could result in a generation of future MLB players and fans that will uphold these positive ideals. This bottom-up approach is one way to help combat future homophobia in amateur baseball as well as the MLB. Davis Jr., reflected this sentiment, "We're seeing a transformation in the nation. We're seeing coaches who are much more empathetic. We had many people say this was their favorite part of the whole program".