One of MLB's  first openly gay players explains why its new hazing policy is a big deal.

It's one of baseball's most time-honored traditions: Veteran players making rookies dress up in embarrassing costumes.

Recently, the New York Mets rookies dressed like the women's team from A League of Their Own and fetched coffee for their teammates. A few years back, the Washington Nationals dressed as the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team and rode the train around D.C..

Starting to see a pattern?


This kind of hazing isn't unique to baseball. You see it in other team atmospheres too, from exclusive clubs to fraternities and sororities. It's meant to build camaraderie, to prove that the newbies are willing to put the team ahead of anything else.

But sometimes — OK, a lot of the time — this kind of hazing goes too far and crosses into offensive or dangerous territory.

That's why the MLB just announced a new zero-tolerance policy for all forms of hazing that mine humor at the expense of someone else's gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation.

Billy Bean — a former player of six years, one of the first pro players to come out as gay, and now the MLB's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion — explains what the big deal is:

"We didn't used to take pictures or talk about what we used to do. Now players are posting pictures in the clubhouse in real time ... We need to be cognizant of the 7- and 8-year-olds that have access to your Twitter feed 24/7," he says.

Billy Bean takes a swing. Photo by Billy Bean used with permission.

"If the hazing is disparaging toward women, or the LGBTQ community, or old stereotypes that people used to think were funny about ethnic backgrounds or religious views, that's not funny anymore."

Plenty of players and ex-players have come out against the new policy too, but as far as Bean is concerned, they can suck it up.

"We have an average salary of over $4 million a season," Bean says. "I don't think it's too much to ask of the players to think a little bit before they engage in this tradition."

The league isn't out to be the fun police. Bean says there are plenty of friendly initiations that don't send a harmful message.

He says the New York Yankees rookies recently dressed up as "the baby bombers," an ode to their reputation as a young team full of powerful sluggers.

"That wasn't mean-spirited," he says. "It was creative. It was funny."

The bottom line? No one should be forced to do anything they truly don't want to do.

Since the news, many players have come out in support of "the old way of doing things," which is disappointing to some. But league officials say a lot of other current players are glad about the changes and had complained about being forced to dress in offensive costumes.

This move by the MLB certainly doesn't mean pro sports culture is "fixed." There are currently no active MLB players who openly identify as gay, for example, and the odds of that being the case are astronomically low.

But this new policy is a small step — however small — in the right direction.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

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Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

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2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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