The video, which was announced last Friday, will make the Phillies the seventh Major League Baseball team to participate in the campaign, which seeks to offer support for LGBT youth.
Phillies vice president of communications Bonnie Clark said the team is still in the “early stages” of discussion on the video, but expects to release it around “back-to-school” time. Decisions about who will appear in the video are expected in the coming weeks, Clark said.
The announcement came as a fan-driven petition on Change.org was picking up speed.
Philadelphia native and lifelong Phillies fan Jerome Hunt posted the petition in June and the site began publicizing it a few weeks ago. At the time the Phillies announced they would create a video, about 2,000 people had signed the petition.
Clark said the team had already been in talks about producing a video when they got wind of Hunt’s petition.
“We were having conversations with the project director before we were even made aware of the petition,” Clark said. “My counterpart at the Giants told me about the campaign and we decided that it was something we would consider, but we weren’t even aware of [the petition] until we had conversations with the people at ‘It Gets Better.’”
Hunt, a Ph.D. candidate at Howard University, currently lives in Washington, D.C., but grew up in West Philadelphia and also lived in Overbrook.
Hunt said he was bullied — frequently called “faggot” and “gay” — in elementary and high school, years when he himself hadn’t even personally come to terms with his sexual orientation.
As a student at Roman Catholic High School, his participation in the school’s band largely helped him overcome the bullying.
“Initially it created a lot of self-doubt and some insecurities but once I joined the band, I developed some really strong friendships that helped me develop into the person I am today,” he said. “I really do credit being in band and around people who didn’t judge me for who I was with making my time in high school more comfortable and enabling me to be more comfortable with being myself.”
That aim is shared by the “It Gets Better” project, which was launched last fall amid the barrage of highly publicized suicides by LGBT youth and which has since drawn more than 1 million videos, submitted by everyday LGBT community members, celebrities and politicians.
Hunt said the campaign would have been advantageous during his younger years and is especially beneficial in that it provides resources and assistance to people at all stages of their coming-out process.
“It would have had a very positive impact for me,” he said. “I think a program such as ‘It Gets Better’ really does a good job because you don’t have to come out as being LGBT to really get the message. You can get the message via the Internet by reading the stories and watching the videos and I think that’s really effective because there are many people who aren’t comfortable with coming out yet and they’re able to still get these messages.”
In the past few months, there has been a push for professional sports teams to lend their influence to the campaign, especially in light of a series of antigay comments made by some sports leaders, such as the recent homophobic slurs made by Eagle DeSean Jackson.
Equality Pennsylvania issued a call to both the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates this past spring to participate in the campaign.
“I think it’s terrific,” Equality PA executive director Ted Martin said of the Phillies’ announcement. “It shows the Phillies are leaders, and I hope that other professional teams of all sorts follow their example.”
Martin said his organization has heard back from a representative from the Pirates, who are in talks about the prospects of an “It Gets Better” video, a decision Martin said he hopes will be furthered by the Phillies’ consent.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.