Major League Soccer on March 13 announced new efforts to protect players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.
The league worked with the New York Attorney General's office — which has taken the lead in talks to improve non-discrimination policies in major league sports in the U.S. — and is undertaking several new efforts as part of its “Don’t Cross the Line” initiative at the outset of the 2014 season.
A news release said the steps are aimed at reinforcing the league’s policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation and other criteria unrelated to athletic performance. Efforts to be undertaken by MLS include expanded sensitivity training for players, a centralized complaint system and the dissemination and posting of a player code of conduct prohibiting discrimination in home and visitor locker rooms.
“Harassment and discrimination in the workplace – whether in an office building, on the soccer field or a baseball diamond – are illegal," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. "My office is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all employees no matter where they work, and I applaud Major League Soccer for working cooperatively with us to promote a culture of inclusion. Together, we are sending a powerful message that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in any form in the world of major league sports."
JoAnn Neale, chief administrative ffficer for MLS, said the Don’t Cross the Line initiative "is a strong statement that we are a league that stands against discrimination. We are committed to providing a safe environment where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect."
Major League Soccer's community outreach initiative — MLS WORKS — is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs, according to Neale. She said MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport.
And Don’t Cross the Line is an awareness campaign launched by MLS to formalize its long-standing commitment to diversity while demonstrating the league’s stance against discrimination and promoting the importance of positive behavior at all levels of the game.
As a result of MLS's cooperation with the attorney general's office, the league revised the materials used for annual pre-season player training to include expanded instruction about training on discrimination and harassment, including preventing discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.
MLS will also centralize the process for filing complaints of discrimination and harassment for both players and club personnel by designating a lead point of contact at the MLS League office where complaints of harassment or discrimination can be made. In accordance with the player code of conduct, MLS has also agreed to take steps to protect from retaliation any person who makes or assists in making such a complaint, or who assists in the investigation of a complaint.
MLS joins the National Football League and Major League Baseball in stepping up efforts to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.