Lance Berkman is a spokesman against an LGBT rights law in Houston

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SB Nation’s Outsports reports that former Astros first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman has become a spokesman for a group opposed to a ballot initiative in Houston known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. He’s taped commercials attacking the law for providing equal protection for LGBT people.

Which, hey, baseball players skew conservative and conservative people are more likely to oppose LGBT laws than many, so no big deal? Normally yes, but this particular campaign and Berkman’s particular words against the law are pretty damn vile.

The law in question would ensure public accommodations for transgender people to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. As it is now, transgender people frequently face discrimination in this regard and are denied the same access as others to facilities. Many cities have ordinances on the books ensuring such access, but Houston doesn’t. The vote on the ordinance is November 3.

The campaign against the ordinance, however, has chosen to traffic in some of the oldest and most disgusting stereotypes against LGBT people, characterizing them as “troubled men,” equating them with sexual predators and sex offenders and citing the safety of their “mothers, wives and daughters” as a reason for opposing the ordinance. Here is the group’s spokesman:

“Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance would force businesses and public establishments to allow troubled men, or men who want to start trouble, to use women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. This endangers women and girls and places them in harm’s way,” Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill said in a press release.

“There are 8345 registered and convicted sexual predators in Harris County. This just scratches the surface of this dangerous problem. These men could use this ordinance as a legal shield to threaten our mothers, wives and daughters,” Woodfill added.

Berkman’s ad follows this script exactly, talking about his two daughters and citing the “troubled men” slander.

Such characterizations have been used for decades, hell centuries, to demonize the LGBT community, casting them as sick people and criminals. The opposition here is no different. And conveniently forgets that, as things currently stand:

In reality, the use of “troubled men” and fears for the children are a handy way to avoid saying “we’re against this law because we are uncomfortable with transgender people in general and allowing what we perceive to be a political victory for LGBT persons in particular.”

One hopes Berkamn is ignorant of the ugliness animating the campaign for which he speaks, as many celebrity endorsers are.

Former trainers also allege discrimination by Mariners

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Dr. Lorena Martin was recently terminated as the Mariners’ director of high performance. Following her ouster, she alleged that members of the Mariners’ front office and coaching staff, including GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay, made bigoted comments against foreign-born players. While the Mariners strongly denied Martin’s accusations, MLB opened an investigation into the matter.

TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that former trainers of the Mariners, based out of the club’s complex in Boca Chica (Domonican Republic), claim the club’s treatment of Latino personnel changed once Dipoto took over as GM. Those trainers, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, did not speak specifically to Martin’s claims, but did say their experiences with Dipoto and McKay could relate with hers.

Through an interpreter over the phone, Santiago said, “It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them. But never with me.” When asked if it was because he was Latino, Santiago responded, “Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes. Because I am a Latino of color.”

Santiago continued, “I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

Furthermore, Santiago commented, “Before Dipoto and McKay came, everything was in order. I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed. In the past,  the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

Per Cotterill, the Mariners apparently found it problematic that neither Santiago nor Valdez were certified. Santiago wondered why his lack of certification was never an issue for the previous 10 years he worked for the Mariners or the previous 15 he’d worked in baseball. The Mariners were paying for his training for certification in physical therapy. He has one year remaining. Valdez also said the club was paying for him to obtain his certification.

Valdez said through an interpreter, “It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different. Almost like one was superior to the other.” Though Valdez declined to name specific examples, he said, “It was just [McKay’s] demeanor. He would arrive, see us and not acknowledge us. He wouldn’t want to talk or be with us. He would arrive to the staff meeting and that was it. I never exchanged words with either [McKay or Dipoto].”

To date, neither Martin nor the trainers have provided concrete evidence of the discrimination they claimed happened while working for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and it doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t face some kind of punishment by MLB. You may recall that MLB does not need a convinction in order to levy a punishment against players accused of domestic violence. Martin, in particular, risked a lot for what will likely amount to very little. She has burnt to a crisp her bridge with the Mariners and other organizations, even outside of baseball, will likely view her as a risky hire. She appears to be doing what she thinks is right by her and her former coworkers, which is commendable. Even for Santiago and Valdez, it would be a lot simpler and safer career-wise to stay quiet, which is why we should take these accusations seriously and give them the benefit of the doubt.