MLB joins nationwide attempt to stop bullying
Purple takes over on Spirit Day in effort to show support for youth
Major League Baseball is awash these days in the shades of red, blue, orange and even a little bit of yellow among those still contending for a World Series trophy.
But purple reigns.
This is Spirit Day, and MLB and its 30 clubs are again taking a united stand against bullying and to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
You will see signs of this across baseball. For example, the profile pictures of @MLB and all official team Twitter accounts will have purple outlines, and you will see a purple hue on official MLB Facebook and Instagram pages. #Postseason and #SpiritDay go hand in hand.
You will see it at Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Tigers at Comerica Park (8 p.m. ET, FOX), where a sellout crowd will be prompted on the scoreboard and over a public-address announcement to learn more about the day's meaning and how to be involved.
"Bullying is widespread," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "It's a serious problem that can happen to anyone at any time at any place."
"Words, just as much as actions, have consequences," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You are more powerful than you know."
Spirit Day began in 2010 to take positive and powerful actions and commemorate young LGBT lives lost to suicide. Each year, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organizes hundreds of celebrities, brands, landmarks, sports leagues, faith groups, school districts, colleges and universities to speak out for LGBT youth on Spirit Day, and this marks the second consecutive year that MLB and its clubs have played a role.
"As our country moves closer to full legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, LGBT youth continue to face staggering rates of bullying at school," GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz said. "Spirit Day is an opportunity for all of us to send a message of support to LGBT youth everywhere and for those young people to hold their heads high while our nation stands behind them."
Spirit Day coincides with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network Ally Week, as well as National Bullying Prevention Month. According to GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey, 63.5 percent of LGBT students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.9 percent because of their gender expression. GLSEN also reported that 81.9 percent of LGBT students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 27.1 percent because of their gender expression.
There are many anti-bullying groups, but all combine for a unified message. MLB clubs are active year-round in the effort to drive that message home.
The Braves worked with the Anti-Defamation League and its No Place for Hate bullying prevention campaign, and the Braves Foundation awarded the ADL a $5,000 grant to aid in the fight against bullying.
"Everyone deserves acceptance and tolerance regardless of race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious beliefs," Braves right fielder Justin Upton said. "If you are being bullied, you should know you are not alone. You should also know it is not your fault. Please confide in someone: Your parents, your teacher, a friend. It's important to let someone know you are hurting. And if you know or see someone being bullied, do something about it."
"It seems that bullying has gone to a whole new level in the last several years, and the consequences are staggering," Braves president John Schuerholz added. "We know that kids listen to their favorite athletes, and we had many of our players who wanted to be a part of this. Hopefully, hearing from someone they admire will result in them seeking the help they need."
On Sept. 10 in St. Louis, Tina Meier of the Megan Meier Foundation threw out the first pitch during Bullying Prevention Night. In that pregame ceremony at Busch Stadium, several other representatives of anti-bullying groups were introduced.
During Hope Week last July at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees hosted Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying group. The club teamed up with Kirk and Laura Smalley, whose son, Ty Field-Smalley, took his own life at age 11 after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully who had been bullying him for more than two years.
"Ever since that day, Laura and I have been traveling all over this world, talking to kids, families, who have done this same kind of thing," Kirk Smalley told a crowd of kids at Hope Week. "I've got a list over a thousand children who have taken their own lives because of being bullied. It's just the ones I personally know about. Laura and I have talked to over 300 of these families in person. That's over a thousand babies lost. A thousand families ruined.
"I know we're not perfect. I'm not even asking you to try to be. We're gonna make mistakes. We're gonna mess up. What I'm asking is, when we do that, we've gotta learn. We can go back. We can apologize. Believe me, it can make a lifetime's worth of difference to somebody."
Now-retired pitcher and father Andy Pettitte said he was especially moved by that speech.
"There's no sense for little kids taking their lives," Pettitte said. "When you hear a message like this, obviously it brings it to the forefront. ... You want to try to help them in any way."
Said Smalley: "Knowing that we are able to work with the New York Yankees now to help spread our message means the world to us. They can reach so many people and impact so many lives that it is so very important."
The White House, sports leagues, MTV, landmarks (including Times Square), basketball player Jason Collins, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, school districts and more than 100 celebrities and national brands are participating on Spirit Day. A complete list of celebrity participants, media outlets, TV networks, organizations and corporations is available at glaad.org/spiritday.
"If you or someone you know is being bullied," Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy said, "there are things you can do to make it stop."