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San Diego Padres Sign GLSEN’s Team Respect Challenge

by Sylvia Rodemeyer
Contributor
Thursday Jul 21, 2011
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Days before San Diego’s annual Pride festival, the San Diego Padres became the first professional sports team to pledge to support and respect LGBT youth by signing onto the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Team Respect challenge. The players pledged to avoid name-calling and language that puts down others because of differences in race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or religion.

This milestone was purportedly helped along by Padres team manager Bud Black’s wife Nanette. Nanette Black, a pediatric nurse, reportedly strongly supported and suggested the Team Respect Challenge after working with children throughout her career.

"We applaud the Padres for signing this pledge, and we hope that the students involved in athletic teams throughout the District follow their great example," said San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Bill Kowba. "The Padres have proven themselves to be valuable role models San Diego students."

The SDUSD recently adopted an anti-bullying, harassment and intimidation policy. It bans bullying in any form at school or school-related events. The new regulation specifically cites acts motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

"There’s growing attention being paid to treatment of LGBT youth in the media," said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN. "It’s time that professional sports made concrete improvements in the treatment of LGBT athletes."

The San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox have made "It Gets Better" videos in response to the spate of LGBT teenager suicides that grabbed headlines last fall. Philadelphia Phillies fan Jerome Hunt continues to urge the baseball team to follow suit, while others have petitioned the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees to make their own "It Gets Better" videos.

Governor Jerry Brown on July 14 signed a bill that requires California’s public schools to include the contributions of gays and lesbians in their curriculum. A separate bill, Seth’s Law, which is named in honor of a 13-year-old Tehachapi student who took his own life in Sept. 2010 after he endured years of bullying, would require schools to update their anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies.

Byard said that OUT Sports and the "It Gets Better" project continue to generate more attention to LGBT issues and acceptance around the country, but there is still a long way to go.

The Team Respect Challenge is part of Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project, which the organization started a year ago. The project seeks to make athletics and physical education classes safe and inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.

Byard credits the addition of Pat Griffin to GLSEN’s staff for the success of the program. Griffin has long worked to challenge homophobia within sports.

"The Padres have made it clear who the real pros are," said Byard.

She hopes that other teams will step up to the plate and also sign the pledge.

Log onto www.glsen.org for more information on GLSEN or the GLSEN Sports Project.

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