Major League Soccer and the Major League Soccer Players Union have announced a new partnership with the You Can Play project that will build on the League's anti-discrimination training aimed at countering homophobia.
"The diversity found in our League has always been a point of pride for us," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. "Our MLS WORKS ‘Don't Cross the Line' initiative is a strong statement that we are a league that stands against discrimination. We are proud to partner with You Can Play to ensure that all of our fans and players know that MLS is committed to providing a safe environment where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect."
You Can Play will provide resources to players directly, part of which will be confidential counseling in which gay athletes can find support without the risk of being outed. They will also conduct trainings for MLS teams on LGBT issues and work with the league on public relations issues.
"This partnership with MLS and the MLS Players Union confirms the message that MLS will not tolerate discrimination of any kind inside the locker rooms, on the field or in the stands," said You Can Play president and co-founder Patrick Burke. "We will be able to provide vital resources directly to the players, while also ensuring that every soccer fan feels welcome to attend MLS events."
Major League Soccer is the second professional sports league to enter into a partnership with You Can Play, following the NHL's similar announcement in April.
All of the five major American men's professional sports leagues are now working in some capacity with at least one LGBT organization. GLSEN has a partnership with the NBA, GLAAD has a relationship with Major League Baseball and the NFL is working with several organizations to craft training materials. However not all of the relationships are aimed at ending homophobia in leagues like this announcement. It's interesting that MLS was the last to build such a relationship, since they were the first to have an openly gay player, Robbie Rogers, take the field.
Still, the league has been out front on these issues for the last couple of years, levying suspensions against players who have uttered publicly homophobic statements or been caught doing so during games. This relationship with You Can Play will hopefully strengthen the proactive position the league has taken with the 'Don't Cross The Line' initiative mentioned above by Garber.