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.

MLB releases statement, promises to “do the work.” But what does that mean?

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Over the past several days Major League Baseball’s clubs began, after some initial hesitance, to issue statements in response to George Floyd’s killing and the civil unrest which followed it and continues.

Some of those statements have been very good (looking at you Rays and Orioles). Others less so (looking at you, well, everyone else).

The biggest problem with what most of the teams have said is that, no matter how good their intentions, you would never know from most of the statements that this all began with a police officer killing a black man. You would never know that that is the basis for the protests going on in almost every major city and in many small towns across the country. With only a couple of exceptions, the teams’ statements do not mention police brutality or police behavior at all.

Which, at some point I suppose I just have to let go. I and others have spent a good amount of time the past few days taking issue with the omission of police and police brutality from these statements, but one can only beat one’s head against the wall so much and spend so much time wishing that a committee-drafted corporate communication is going to convey that which one wishes it will convey. On some level — a very high level — these sorts of statements are aimed at (a) checking off a “hey, at least we didn’t ignore it” box; and (b) heading off blowback on social media. I understand how that works.

A few minutes ago Major League Baseball issued a statement of its own. Like most of the team statements it does not mention the police or police brutality. But it does do something more. See if you can spot it:

 

The difference between this and what most other institutions have said is that here Major League Baseball says “We want to be better, we need to be better, and this is our promise to do the work.”

What is “the work?” What is “the work” even aimed at? More to the point, how can anyone do “work” if they don’t specifically identify the problem “the work” is intended to solve? MLB cites “racism and social injustice.” That’s extraordinarily broad and, arguably, MLB already does a great deal along those lines. If you doubt that, I can tell you that they issue many, many press releases to tell you about it, usually around April 15. But what is “the work” that they plan to do beyond that? And how, again, does it relate to the “senseless killings” they cite at the outset?

This matters. It matters because if you nod at a problem and make no promises to do anything about it, hey, fine, I get it, you don’t care. But that’s not what Major League Baseball is doing here. It is going a step beyond just empty signaling and saying that it plans to do things.

I am eager to see what those things are. Specifically.