Press Room

March 03, 2005


HRC Sends Letter to NFL, NHL, MLB Regarding Personalized Jerseys

'Apparently, you can be a 'heterosexual' in the MLB, NFL and NHL. But you can't be a 'lesbian,'' said HRC's Winnie Stachelberg.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign sent the following letter today to commissioners of the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball regarding the online sale of the leagues' personalized jerseys and the rejection of certain words deemed "inappropriate, derogatory or profane":

March 3, 2005

Gary Bettman
NHL Commissioner
1251 Avenue of the Americas, 47th Floor
New York, NY 10020
Fax: 212-789-2020

Paul Tagliabue
NFL Commissioner
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-681-7575

Bud Selig
MLB Commissioner
C/O Richard Levin
245 Park Avenue, Public Relations, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
Fax: 212-931-5654

Dear Commissioners Paul Tagliabue, Bud Selig and Gary Bettman,

We're sports fans. Like you, we love the squeak of shoes on a basketball court, the smell of clay in the infield, the sound of the whistle at kickoff and the way players' skates slice through the ice.

Like most kids, we grew up wanting to be part of the team, dreaming of a jersey of our own. That's why it's with some disillusionment that we write you today regarding the online sale of your leagues' personalized jerseys and the rejection of certain words deemed "inappropriate, derogatory or profane."

Your software is allowing some words to be printed on jerseys but not other words they deem unsuitable. So we did our own search to see what your leagues might consider dirty words.

Apparently, you can be a "heterosexual" in the MLB, NFL and NHL. But you can't be a "lesbian."

We share your concern that no sports fan sees their favorite team's jersey plastered with profanity. We're writing today to respectfully remind you that "lesbian" is not a dirty word.

According to a news report, a spokesperson for the NFL said these jerseys weren't designed for political statements and that's why the word "lesbian" would be inappropriate. A fan's sexual orientation isn't his or her political statement, it's their identity. Much like a name or a nickname, it's part of who they are. (Also, a quick check showed you can be a "Republican" or "Democrat" in all of the leagues.)

We recognize that it would be nearly impossible for your leagues to police every word allowed on jerseys. That's why we're urging you to come up with a short list of truly obscene words and ditch the words that your software blocks that simply refer to a fan's identity. There are serious controversies plaguing professional sports these days, and the word "lesbian" shouldn't be one of them.

The thing about sports fans is that we come from all walks of life. For an hour or more, we sit side-by-side. And, forgetting our differences and the challenges that face our families, neighborhoods and country, we join together for a common purpose - to root like mad for our team.

We leave the game euphoric or disheartened, but we leave united. Let's be sure that that harmony extends to all sports fans, including those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.


Winnie Stachelberg
Human Rights Campaign
Vice President of Foundation, writing on behalf of more than 600,000 members, many of whom are proud sports fans