NBA, players union asked to add sexual orientation clause to contract

The news that the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement adds sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause has spurred a call for the NBA and its players union to do the same.

The Resource Center Dallas, an LGBT advocacy group, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern and union head Billy Hunter asking that similar language be added to a new contract. Both sides are far apart and the start of the regular season is in jeopardy, but this request is a no-brainer that they can agree on. The letter:

Commissioner David Stern
The National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022
VIA EMAIL AND FAX, (212) 832-3861

Billy Hunter, Executive Director
National Basketball Player’s Association
310 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10027
VIA EMAIL AND FAX, (212) 655-0881

Dear Commissioner Stern and Mr. Hunter,

My name is Rafael McDonnell, and I am the communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center Dallas. Since 1983, the Center has been a leader in North Texas and across the state advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, and all people affected by HIV. Our primary facility is located a couple of miles northeast of the American Airlines Center, home of the 2010-2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. On a personal note, I’ve been a Mavericks fan ever since Don Carter established the team in 1980.

I’m writing you because I’ve read that the NBA, the team owners and the NBPA are holding last-ditch talks in New York starting Friday to salvage the 2011-2012 season. There are a variety of issues that must be worked through before a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached. But I would ask as an LGBT fan that both of you please add sexual orientation nondiscrimination provisions to the new CBA.

You may have heard that the National Football League added a provision that the league would not discriminate against a player based on his sexual orientation to the collective bargaining agreement approved earlier this summer. The National Hockey League added similar protections for its players in 2005, as did Major League Soccer in 2004. I have included as an attachment the specific language used by the other sports leagues.

I am proud of the steps that the NBA has taken to embrace the LGBT community. Several teams have held LGBT fan nights. The “Wordplay/Think B4 You Speak.com” PSA that ran during last spring’s NBA playoffs show the league and the players association understand how words can be used to dehumanize LGBT people. Furthermore, recent penalties assessed against players show the league is serious about cracking down on disrespectful language.

By adding the sexual orientation nondiscrimination language, the NBA not only joins the NFL, NHL and MLS. It joins nine of the Fortune 10 companies and 89% of the Fortune 500. It also sends a strong signal to the league’s LGBT fans that they are supported and affirmed, since professional sports have been described as one of the last bastions of homophobia. If I can be of further assistance, of if you and your staffs have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,
Rafael McDonnell

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