NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball, which already has a zero-tolerance policy toward bias of any sort, underscored that commitment to equality on Tuesday by announcing a new code of conduct that strengthens its stance against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The announcement, in conjunction with the MLB Players Association and New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, was made at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest.
Commissioner Bud Selig said this step is a logical extension of baseball's culture of diversity that began when Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947.
"No individual better exemplifies that stature better than the great pioneer that changed our game and changed society, Jackie Robinson," Selig said. "He is a symbol of tolerance and the power of one's actions. We treasure the example that Jackie set. And I strive to ensure that his legacy will be celebrated in our game for as long as baseball is played. I believe that this plan will help us protect players of the present and of the future in the game that Jackie loved so deeply.
"Diversity is a hallmark of our sport, which has been blessed to have an innate ability to bring people together. The people of our sport have a responsibility to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game's diverse players, employees and fans deserve. The culture that all of us share is one of tolerance and of respect."
Added MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner in a statement: "The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation."
Among the steps that will be implemented is an agreement by MLB to develop and distribute materials on sexual orientation non-discrimination to all scouting and player development directors involved in the process of acquiring amateur talent to help create a culture of acceptance early in the process. Additionally, the Commissioner's Office will conduct biannual training sessions for club and league officials.
Also, the process for filing complaints involving discrimination and harassment for players and club personnel will be centralized. A lead contact point will be developed at the Commissioner's Office to whom complaints can be taken, and steps will be taken to protect any person who makes or assists in a complaint from retaliation.
"No one should face harassment or discrimination, whether their workplace is an office, park or a baseball diamond," Schneiderman said. "By making a clear stand against discrimination in the workplace, our national pastime is showing national leadership in the fight to promote equal justice for all. I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to ensure equal protection under the law for all employees no matter where they work, and I applaud Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for working cooperatively with our office to promote a culture of inclusion and equality."
The announcement was met with approval from Athlete Ally, a leading nonprofit organization in promoting LGBT inclusion in sports.
"Major League Baseball has stood out over the last half century for its leadership around diversity and inclusion" said executive director Hudson Taylor. "I applaud MLB's continued commitment to making baseball safe and accessible for all. With the addition of this code of conduct, it is clear that sexual orientation will not be a barrier for athletes to play the game they love."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.