A.G. Schneiderman & Major League Soccer Announce Strengthened Policies Against Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced new efforts to protect players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.  Working with the Attorney General's office, the League is undertaking several new efforts as part of its “Don’t Cross the Line” initiative at the outset of the 2014 season. These steps are aimed at reinforcing the League’s policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation and other criteria unrelated to athletic performance. Efforts to be undertaken by MLS include expanded sensitivity training for players, a centralized complaint system and the dissemination and posting of a Player Code of Conduct prohibiting discrimination in home and visitor locker rooms. 

“Harassment and discrimination in the workplace – whether in an office building, on the soccer field or a baseball diamond – are illegal,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all employees no matter where they work, and I applaud Major League Soccer for working cooperatively with us to promote a culture of inclusion. Together, we are sending a powerful message that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in any form in the world of major league sports.” 

“Our MLS WORKS ‘Don’t Cross the Line’ initiative is a strong statement that we are a league that stands against discrimination,” said JoAnn Neale, Chief Administrative Officer of MLS. “We are committed to providing a safe environment where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect.”  

MLS WORKS is Major League Soccer's community outreach initiative dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. “Don’t Cross the Line” is an awareness campaign launched by MLS to formalize its long-standing commitment to diversity while demonstrating the league’s stance against discrimination and promoting the importance of positive behavior at all levels of the game. 

As a result of MLS's cooperation with the Attorney General's office, the League has committed to additional steps to ensure that it is open to all players, regardless of sexual orientation or other non-performance-related criteria. Among these steps, MLS has revised the materials used for annual pre-season player training to include expanded instruction about training on discrimination and harassment, including preventing discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation within the League.    

MLS will also centralize the process for filing complaints of discrimination and harassment for both players and club personnel by designating a lead point of contact at the MLS League office where complaints of harassment or discrimination can be made. In accordance with the Player Code of Conduct, MLS has also agreed to take steps to protect from retaliation any person who makes or assists in making such a complaint, or who assists in the investigation of a complaint. 

MLS now joins the National Football League and Major League Baseball in stepping up efforts to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. Previous Attorney General press releases related to those organizations can be found here and here.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Justin Deabler of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Kristen Clarke. The Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. 

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to both combating discrimination and promoting LGBT equality. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov

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