Effective next season, Major League Baseball intends to implement a universal code of conduct for fans who attend games.
The issue, which arose after a May 1 incident in which Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was berated by racial taunts at Fenway Park in Boston, was discussed at the quarterly owners meetings last week in Chicago and is expected to come up again when the owners reconvene in November.
“We are working with the clubs on security and fan conduct initiatives at all of our ballparks,” MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said. “We will be issuing a league-wide fan code of conduct for the 2018 season.”
MLB wouldn’t be the first professional sports league to issue such a policy. The NFL established a league-wide code of conduct in 2008. The NBA mandates that fans who don’t comply with its standards of behavior are subject to ejection, revocation of season tickets and possible arrest or prosecution if they’re found to be in violation of city ordinances. The NHL prohibits “abusive language or obscene gestures,” among other things, under penalty of ejection.
In the days after Jones’ experience in Fenway, commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB would survey all 30 clubs about their procedures in an attempt to develop a more comprehensive policy. As of now, every team has at least some form of a code of conduct that governs fan behavior at ballparks, though the details of each vary in content, scope and enforcement.
The Boston Red Sox, for example, recently added the term “hate speech” to their policy, team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said, and included the penalty of a lifetime ban from Fenway for fans who are caught violating the code of conduct. Other teams apply different language.
By adopting a league-wide policy, MLB is seeking to establish a set of minimum behavioral standards and consequences that are uniform across the league, according to a source.
“We want to make sure we know exactly what the clubs are doing before we start recommending changes,” Manfred said in May. “Obviously our goal is to have an environment in all 30 ballparks that is welcoming to fans of all racial backgrounds. We work hard to have a family-friendly and diversity-friendly environment, and we will continue to do that.”
Over the past four months, Kennedy said MLB has encouraged teams to exchange ideas about ways to promote inclusion and stamp out intolerance.
“There’s not been any directive or mandate, but there’s been support from the commissioner’s office for sharing ideas and looking at different policies and procedures,” Kennedy said. “I actually think most clubs have a zero-tolerance policy with respect to fan enjoyment and creating a safe environment.”
On May 2, one night after Jones reported being the target of racial intolerance, the Red Sox issued a lifetime ban to a white man who was overheard using a racial slur to describe a Kenyan woman who sang the national anthem.
Kennedy said the Red Sox haven’t had another reported incident of racial intolerance at Fenway Park since May 2.
“But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again,” Kennedy said. “It likely will, and we need to be really diligent.”
The Toronto Blue Jays made a statement against intolerance when they suspended center fielder Kevin Pillar for two games in May for yelling an anti-gay slur at Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte after striking out. Pillar apologized via Twitter and said he was “completely and utterly embarrassed” by his behavior.