It's always difficult to know how seriously the real power brokers in sports are going to take allegations of homophobia. Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals seem to be latest very seriously.
Earlier today we ran an email from former Cardinals draftee Tyler Dunnington, who said he left the sport after one season in the Minor Leagues because of homophobic comments from his teammates. Dunnington is gay. Within an hour of the story being released, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak sent an email to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and MLB.com:
"This is very disappointing and our hope is that every player, staff member, and employee feels they are treated equally and fairly. Given the nature of these allegations I will certainly look into this further as well as speak with Billy Bean of the Commissioner's office for further assistance on this matter...we will take this very seriously."
Bean, who left baseball 20 years ago because of homophobia, offered this insight:
"Tyler Dunnington's comments about his experience as a college baseball player, and as a Minor League Baseball player in 2014, are an example of the importance of the work we are doing at MLB. Every organization in Major League Baseball, including the St. Louis Cardinals, has supported our inclusion work. However, we all realize there is still much work to be done. Tyler's desire to return to baseball is the perfect example that our message of equality and acceptance is working."
Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk has a great take with this observation:
"I don't believe that, had Dunnington's coaches and teammates known he was gay, they would've said such awful things in his presence. But that's a function of people just knowing better, for the most part, than to say things that might get them in trouble."
Bean has been the engine behind MLB's efforts to combat homophobia in the league for the last two years, visiting various teams and even taking the field for spring training with several of them.
If the Cardinals want to make the most powerful statement they could make, they would invite Dunnington to a Spring Training practice. While the front office may not have known about the language in one of their Minor League teams, now that they do they can send a profound statement by putting Dunnington in a Cardinals uniform for one day and making him a part of the team, even if just for some fielding drills. While some may view it as just a publicity stunt, it is that visible embrace of a gay athlete that sends the most powerful messages.
Bean talked with Dunnington two weeks ago and helped the young man travel to the MLB Diversity Business Summit last week. As MLB vice-president of inclusion, Bean will be working with the Cardinals to find the best path forward to make sure these incidents are eliminated.
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