By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com December 09 2011 6:27 PM ET
The National Basketball Association is the newest professional sports league to add sexual orientation protections for players and employees, possibly making the league a more welcoming place for an openly gay player.
“I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the collective bargaining process and have reached an agreement that addresses many significant issues that were challenges to our league,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement Thursday. “This collective bargaining agreement will help us move toward a better business model, a more competitive league and better alignment between compensation and performance.”
Earlier this year, Major League Baseball added sexual orientation protections for players. Additionally, the NHL, NFL, and Major League Soccer all have policies to help protect openly gay and bisexual players from discrimination or harassment.
In 2011, Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah were condemned and fined for using antigay language on the court. Conversely, this year, Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash made a pro–marriage equality video for the Human Rights Campaign, the sports world celebrated the coming-out of Golden State Warriors general manager Rick Welts, and Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers made a video to fans denouncing bullying and defamatory language at the Staples Center. Stern and NBA legend and commentator Charles Barkley have also said that the league is ready for an openly gay player,
Both the HRC and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have congratulated Stern and the league for being more welcoming to gay athletes. HRC president Joe Solmonese said the move sends "a powerful message to society that what matters is a person's talent, not their sexual orientation." Mike Thompson, acting president of GLAAD, added that the "decision shows that homophobia has no place on the court or in the game and we hope that local, college and high school teams follow this important example."