Tampa Bay Rays tell LGBT community: "It Gets Better"

08/31/11 Atecia Robinson
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Last week the Tampa Bay Rays became the 5th Major League Baseball team to speak against homophobic bullying when they partnered with St. Pete Pride to film a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign. It was shot at the Rays’ home, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to provide inspiration to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community facing harassment.

GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, says that nine out of 10 LGBT students experience daily harassment. Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon and infielder Sean Rodriguez were two of the four players to participate in the “It Gets Better” project put together by board members of the activist organization St. Pete Pride.

Former St. Pete Pride board member Jeff Klein produced the video and said “It Gets Better” was started a year ago by columnist Dan Savage in response to the homophobic bullying faced by school-aged children who have committed suicide within the past few years.

Klein said awareness is the first step towards acceptance of the LGBT community. He said progress was being made compared to 10 years ago – and even professional athletes are willing to speak out.

Johnny Damon and Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said they wanted others to step up to the plate.

Though the players were enthusiastic to make a difference, a few Rays fans felt differently. Klein said they’ve already gotten some backlash from the video.

During the video shoot before a game last week, we attempted to speak with some fans outside the stadium to find out how they feel about their favorite baseball players filming a video against homophobia. Most shrugged off the idea and didn’t want to speak on tape, except for one fan, Brian Littman.

Even though one Rays fan seemed indifferent about the video, Klein says is happy to see that a number of people have become even greater Rays fans because of their “It Gets Better” video.

As a person who grew up as a closeted gay man, Klein said that he hopes that this project will ultimately spark other players in the league to be open about who they are.

In the video, the Rays and manager Joe Maddon said they want victims of homophobia to know they should always reach out for help.

The fourth Rays player in the video is outfielder Sam Fuld. It’s on YouTube. The video will also be found on St.PetePride.com and will be used as a public service announcement on local cable networks.

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