MLB spreads message of love on Spirit Day

October 15th, 2020

One of the greatest days of Billy Bean’s baseball career was at the 2018 All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., when multiple All-Stars -- including Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts -- publicly supported Major League Baseball’s Shred Hate program on camera.

In an interview with MLB Network, Bean, a former MLB outfielder and current vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner, detailed the progress of MLB's anti-bullying initiative and its further alignment with Spirit Day, an annual day of awareness dedicated to speaking out against the bullying of LGBTQ youth.

In coordination with Spirit Day, Bean will also make presentations to the front office employees of the Reds and Dodgers via virtual sessions.

“When I was outside of baseball, it was the perfect element,” Bean said. “Sports have a great ability to equalize everybody. If you’re good at what you’re doing, all those differences go away. It’s a unifier and I think today represents that. For me, especially as a member of the LGBTQ community, I’m very close to this initiative.”

According to his website, Bean is the only openly gay Major League Baseball player (current or former) alive today. Since 2014, Bean has been working as MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion.

MLB joined the social media campaign by “going purple” to stand with and show solidarity with the LGBTQ youth affected by bullying every day. MLB has supported the campaign for the last several years, and all 30 clubs have been a part of it in some way.

Getting to educate on Spirit Day and bring the Shred Hate initiative to the players and front offices was always at the forefront of Bean’s mind and something he thought would be a challenge. He was pleased with the initial acceptance.

“I tried to position it in a way that was a broad message,” Bean said. “Our bullying prevention programming is not specific to LGBTQ, it’s about accepting women in the workplace and girls on the playground, it’s all across the board. Race, language, all those differences that bring us together.”

Educating and bringing the anti-bullying messaging into classrooms across the nation is essential for Bean. Though COVID-19 changed 2020’s in-class efforts, it is still just the beginning for getting that message across.

According to The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth, 70% of LGBTQ youth have been bullied or verbally harassed and 29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out of their homes or have run away.

Bean wants players and employees of MLB to be involved in the learning and education process. He emphasized the 13 MLB cities which are even further participating in Spirit Day events.

On Spirit Day, the Atlanta Braves were slated to host a postseason watch party for Lost-n-Found Youth, an organization which works to end homelessness for LGBTQ youth by providing food, shelter and life stabilization services.

Their National League Championship Series opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were scheduled to host a career panel with residents at Covenant House, a housing facility dedicated to transitioning homeless, runaway and trafficked young people into the world. The event was to include details on Spirit Day and the bullying of LGBTQ youth.

“For me [Spirit Day] has a deep, deep meaning and I could not be more appreciative of MLB and all 30 of our clubs [that] have supported over the last six years that I’ve been part of this program,” Bean said. “One person can’t do it. It’s a unified effort and I see it as a great example of unity in a time where we could use more of that.”