Major League Baseball has joined a growing number of professional and collegiate organizations in adopting an anonymous texting system that can be used to report player, staff or employee misconduct.
RealResponse, a service provider that allows for real-time reporting of potential misconduct issues, announced Wednesday that its platform is being implemented by MLB. For the league, the use of RealResponse is a proactive step toward rooting out misconduct that includes performance-enhancing drug use, improper sports betting, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse or other potential violations of the league’s conduct rules and policies for players, staff and employees.
The RealResponse system will supplement MLB’s existing reporting channels to provide an efficient means of reporting issues without fear of retaliation.
“Anything that helps us learn about misconduct earlier is helpful,” said Moira Weinberg, MLB’s senior vice president of investigations and deputy general counsel. “It stops it from growing and becoming a bigger issue. Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable reporting issues. Those issues mushroom and, by the time it comes out, it’s in a way that could have been mitigated if it had been addressed sooner.”
David Chadwick, a former college basketball player at Rice University and Valparaiso University, pitched the idea for RealResponse in a business class in 2015 and developed it after interviewing more than 200 Division I athletic directors about their schools’ reporting processes. He found that, generally speaking, participation rates were low, and athletes and employees weren’t speaking up to supervisors until issues had gotten out of hand.
“You want reporting to be easy and safe and accessible and confidential,” Chadwick said. “A lot of the traditional ways of speaking up and sharing concerns are antiquated. They require calling a hotline and speaking to someone or using a web form with a lot of dropdowns or an e-mail address. As the working class becomes the younger generation, it becomes less likely these people will use these antiquated methods. We make it easy and accessible.”
RealResponse is used by more than 100 colleges and universities, as well as by the NFL’s Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL Players Association, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the National Women’s Soccer League, USA Track and Field and USA Gymnastics.
Using RealResponse, an employee sends a text to report an issue. The employee’s phone number is made anonymous by the RealResponse program. An administrator from the organization is then able to communicate directly with the anonymous reporter to ask any necessary follow-up questions and receive additional details. An app, web browser or phone call is not required.
“Sometimes those old reporting channels can be very intimidating,” Chadwick said. “You’re submitting a very formal report with a lot of information. Or you have to call someone. Sometimes people see something that makes their stomach turn and just want someone to know about it. You never know how much bad behavior this system will curb just from this being in place.”
RealResponse will be available to all staff under the MLB umbrella, including the Minor Leagues and international operations. It will soon be compatible with WhatsApp, a messaging application that is popular among players and employees in Latin America as a means of communicating across borders.
“Kudos to MLB for taking this proactive step and helping the people in need within their ecosystem,” Chadwick said. “This is the first major sport within the U.S. to do that.”