By Ken Reed

MLB Network is currently running a documentary about Billy Bean, the former Major League Baseball player who quit the game at age 30 in order to live a more authentic life as a gay man.

The one-hour documentary is very well done. Bean himself narrates it and he comes off as a very intelligent and perceptive human being. The documentary tugs at your heart multiple times as you ride Bean’s emotional roller coaster.

As a society, we’ve made progress on the issue of equity and fairness for gays and lesbians. A clear example is that in 1999, when Bean retired from baseball as an active player, not a single state allowed same-sex marriage. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states.

Progress in the sports world has been a little slower, as Will Leitch pointed out in a recent column for SportsOnEarth. Despite Jason Collins playing a few games last year in the NBA as the first openly gay athlete in one of the four major professional sports in the United States, and Michael Sam, a former SEC defensive player of the year, spending time on a couple NFL practice squads, we have a long ways to go.

“It’s better than it was in 1999,” wrote Leitch. “But it’s not good enough. That’s why Bean is here. That’s why he’s the point of reference. And that’s why we all need to listen.”

Bud Selig has helped us hear Bean’s message. In one of his final acts as commissioner of Major League Baseball, Selig named Billy Bean baseball’s Ambassador for Inclusion.

It was a great move and it certainly seems like he couldn’t have picked a better person.

In the preface to the new edition of his book, Going the Other Way, Bean talked about his new position in baseball.

“It’s a bittersweet development to be sure, after I’d sacrificed so much,” wrote Bean. “But it’s also an opportunity even bigger than a superstar’s contract. It’s a chance to make this great game better than ever, and to help others like me in the process.”

Each time Bean delivers is powerful message of “equity and fairness” humankind is enhanced, if even just a little bit.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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