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Major League Baseball to strengthen policies against harassment over sexual orientation

Major League Baseball will announce Tuesday a new policy to protect players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual-orientation, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Per MLB's new guidelines, which strengthen existing policies, the league will develop a workplace code of conduct, create a centralized system for reports of harassment and offer new training sessions to major league and minor league athletes. The league plans to announce its policy during Tuesday's All-Star Game festivities in New York.

"We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins," league commissioner Bud Selig told the AP. "Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation."

The league's effort follows on the heels of other recent announcements from peer leagues. The National Football League emphasized its anti-discrimination policy after prospective players reported being asked about their sexual orientation at the NFL combine. In June, Major League Soccer launched a renewed anti-discrimination effort, as did the National Hockey League in April.

In the wake of high-profile coming outs from two male professional athletes (soccer's Robbie Rogers and basketball's Jason Collins), MLB's announcement is a welcome move toward a more open culture in sports, although it seems more focused on locker room culture than in the bleachers.

That said, individual teams have been working to help promote a more inclusive fan culture as well. Several baseball clubs, including the Orioles and the Washington Nationals, have hosted "LGBT Pride" nights meant to welcome groups that have often felt marginalized by professional sports.

Lest I sound too idealistic, there's a clear benefit for baseball, too, since these events can help sell tickets on less-attended weeknight games. And that's a point which LGBT advocates have been making all along: Creating a more inclusive, LGBT-friendly attitude in the world of professional sports will only help leagues' bottom lines.

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