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MLB updates conduct code in wake of allegations

Major League Baseball has updated its code of conduct pertaining to harassment and discrimination and also has established an anonymous tip line in the wake of recent stories detailing alleged harassment by since-fired New York Mets general manager Jared Porter and currently suspended Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

The code of conduct, spearheaded by new MLB chief people and culture officer Michele Meyer-Shipp, promises that “all MLB and Club personnel will be held accountable for inappropriate conduct, regardless of their seniority, rank, or stature,” according to documents obtained by ESPN on Tuesday.

In a statement, MLB said it is “committed to ensuring that all individuals who work in and around the game are welcomed and treated equally, with dignity, respect and professionalism. To accomplish this goal, MLB and its Clubs will continue to strive to create environments in which people feel safe and accepted — and when they do not, they feel comfortable speaking up without fear of recrimination, retaliation, or exclusion.”

MLB’s anonymous hotline, called “Speak Up,” will be operated by an outside third party, and its contents will be investigated by either the relevant team or the commissioner’s office, depending on the nature of the allegation. A flier that will be posted on the walls of every major league clubhouse this season outlines three steps for those with information about sexual misconduct and states that “if wrongdoing is found to have occurred, remedial action will be taken. Depending on the severity of the situation, remedial action may take the form of a warning, a suspension, termination of employment, or any other measures available to a Club or the Commissioner.”

The league also sent a memo to teams requiring anti-harassment and discrimination training that must be completed before the end of March by the five most senior baseball-operations staff and the five most senior business staff, a source confirmed to ESPN. It also encouraged teams to adopt annual training in a similar format for all non-player personnel; teams already hold seminars for sexual harassment and domestic violence for major league players every spring training. The league previously required teams to undergo anti-harassment and discrimination training at least every three years from 2018 to 2020 but did not specify senior leadership and did not establish a blanket approach to the education.

On Jan. 18, ESPN reported on a string of explicit, unsolicited text messages that Porter sent to a female reporter in 2016 while working for the Chicago Cubs, one of which included an image of an erect penis. Porter acknowledged the text messages and was fired the next day by the Mets.

Two weeks later, The Athletic published a report in which five women in sports media accused Callaway of inappropriate behavior that included sending shirtless photographs, a request for nude pictures and other advances, prompting the Angels to suspend him amid an ongoing investigation. Callaway, a source said, initially denied any wrongdoing.

Several teams — notably the Mets, Cleveland Indians and Cubs, who previously employed either Porter or Callaway or both — have been working through ways to update their vetting process and install new protocols in the wake of those reports.

Meyer-Shipp, who was hired in August after serving as chief diversity and inclusion officer at the accounting firm KPMG, is also reviewing the “Selig Rule” that urged teams to consider minorities for prominent positions.

The new code of conduct harps on inclusion, acceptance and equality, defines harassment and discrimination, and encourages those employed by the league to report lewd behavior. The flier states that reports of inappropriate conduct “will be kept confidential to the extent possible to conduct a thorough investigation and permitted by law” and called retaliation against those complaints “a serious violation.”

“Harassment and discrimination have no place within Major League Baseball,” the league said as part of its statement. “We are grateful for the courage of the women who have shared their stories, and we believe that an open dialogue is an important part in progress. We must work to build an even playing field for all those involved in our game.”

The Athletic first reported the league’s new policies.

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