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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pitching an anti-bullying effort to the Pirates

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 7:54 PM

The anti-gay bullying "It Gets Better" Project has attracted the help of some big names: Lady Gaga, President Barack Obama even Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Could the Pittsburgh Pirates be next?

Local LGBT activists hope so, and one of them, Sue Kerr, has started an online petition directed to the ball club's president, Frank Coonelly, chairman Bob Nutting and manager of diversity initiatives, Chaz Kellem.

The letter cites other Major League teams that have participated in Dan Savage's project: the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants.

"When I saw the Giants video, I was very moved," Kerr, author of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, tells CP in an email. "I want the Pirates to be among the leaders of this movement because it will send a strong, positive message about Pittsburgh as [a] city that values all sports fans, including LGBTQ youth. It is important that LGBTQ youth experiences with bullying be heard and validated. It is equally important to know that they have many people in their corner."

The letter reiterates that message: "It is not controversial to stand up for all youth to grow up in an environment that is safe. Doing so can send a powerful message to the young fans of the Pirates," one section of it reads.

Judging by the Nutting family's political activity, Kerr's initiative might not seem to have much of a chance. Ogden Nutting, Bob Nutting's father, has contributed nearly $12,000 to conservatives nationwide, like Michele Bachmann and Pat Toomey. Bob Nutting has also donated $1,000 to conservative West Virginia congressman David McKinley.

But team spokesman Jim Trdinich says that participating in the video project is "something we are looking to take part in, [although] the organization is still working  on the most effective plan to assist everybody involved."

Kerr says the Pirates have been "receptive to the idea." As she notes on her blog, the team has held a Pride Night at PNC Park since 2004. 

Kerr's effort is also being supported by groups like like Equality PA, which made a similar pitch to Pirates and Phillies fans for the effort in its weekly newsletter, and on Twitter, two weeks ago. Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA, says there's cause for optimism in both cities: The Phillies, he points out,  have annually hosted a "Gay Day Games" event for almost a decade. 

"Pennsylvania has two teams that have exhibited great friendliness to the LGBT community, so they should just take this important step," Martin says in an email. "I feel good that something will happen in each place."

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