Like many other MLB teams do this time of year, the Kansas City Royals recently hosted a growth seminar for their staff and players at their spring training site in Surprise, AZ.
What made this one unique was the subject being addressed. It wasn’t drugs. It wasn’t domestic violence. It wasn’t social media etiquette.
It was pornography.
Sports shock jock Jim Rome noted the uniqueness of the effort: “The Kansas City Royals made some history over the weekend…they became the first Major League Baseball team to—you guessed it—host an anti-porn workshop. While 29 other teams were working on situational hitting and baserunning—the Royals were working on—resisting the urge to crack open their lappers and watch porn.”
Led by the anti-pornography group “Fight the New Drug,” over 200 Royals players, coaches, trainers and staff listened to FTND Co-Founder and President Clay Olsen spell out the effects of pornography consumption on their lives as both players and men. In his awareness-raising presentation, he “specifically focused on how porn can impact a consumer’s overall well-being, which in turn can affect productivity, work performance and personal image.”
On their site, FTND describes porn’s effect on the brain, the heart and the world. The group focuses on both pornography and addiction, “rejecting the idea that porn is healthy, normal or cool.”
“It says a lot about the organization, that they care so much,” said Olsen. “Not only do they care about how the players perform on the field, but they also care about the overall well-being of the players and how they’re doing off the field, as well.”
The Royals’ administration plans on doing more than just hosting a seminar. “This isn’t just a one-and-done deal,” Olsen emphasized. “This is something this organization will be addressing in time to come. In addition to many other health focuses and training aspects, this will be one of the issues they cover with the players. They care about the players’ well-being.”
A year previously during a press conference, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore explained his rationale for addressing difficult growth topics with his players.
“These guys grow up playing the game that they love to play,” he said. “They have the freedom and the choices of manhood. But oftentimes, they don’t have those responsibilities. Because we don’t allow them to have those responsibilities. We do a lot for them, because we want them to compete every single day at the highest level against the best of the best. And we want to protect them from different ills of society, so they can go out there and do what they love to do and celebrate what they do on the field.
“So do I think we should constantly look at ways to help improve the character and help mold and shape our players? I do… We talk about pornography, and the effects of what that does to the minds of players and the distractions, and how that leads to abuse of—domestic abuse—to abuse of women. How it impacts relationships—we talk about a lot of things. And I don’t mind sharing it with you.”
Many players and team personnel expressed thankfulness to FTND for speaking at the facility, including Strength and Conditioning Coach Austin Womack, who not only pointed out that the Royals are the first pro baseball team to address the issue, but also detailed his own journey toward freedom regarding addiction.
“Today I had the honor of listening to Clay (one of FTND’s co-founders) present on the harmful effects of pornography. Words really can’t express how much fighting the battle against pornography addiction means to me, and how grateful I am to be a part of the @kcroyals organization, the first organization in professional baseball to actively fight against porn addiction. It says a ton about the kind of men we have in leadership roles and it makes me even more eager to serve under them. – My personal story with porn addiction started when I was around 12-13 and it accelerated into an addiction throughout high school in college. In those years if you would’ve asked me if I had an addiction I would’ve said “Heck no. Addiction is for stuff like alcohol and drugs.” Especially because of how normal porn is in our society today. All my friends watched it. It really wasn’t a big deal. – It wasn’t until I actively started to fight this addiction, and see victory in this addiction, that I began to realize that there were areas of my life that were negatively affected by my porn addiction. My relationships with girls was the main victim, but it also affected other things like my sleep habits. Also, it’s a super tough addiction to beat, which confirms to me that this thing really is an addiction. – The last few years I have been battling this addiction I would see victory for a month or two and then I would relapse back into it for a few weeks before getting clean again. It was a roller coaster. I knew I wanted to get clean, and I thought I knew how to, but I had yet to see sustained progress. This is where @fightthenewdrug comes in. – 5 months ago I started the Fortify Program @joinfortify . Since then I have refrained from viewing porn, which makes this current streak the longest since I was first exposed to porn over a decade ago. – I still face temptation all the time. Its tough. It’s a daily battle. But it’s a battle that is winnable and the positive repercussions from beating this addiction are more than worth the fight. My life is proof.” – @awomack12 🙌⚾
Undoubtedly—as the Instagram picture at the top would suggest—not all of the players appreciated the topic being addressed. Commentary across social media was caustic and mocking, indicating an ignorance regarding not only the social and relational dangers of pornography but also the spiritual battle that rages around it.
For example, CBSSports writer Mike Axisa said, “I have to say, this sounds like something a high school coach would do to his team. All MLB teams should work with their players to prevent sexual abuse and domestic violence, but porn? It’s one thing to bring in a motivational speaker. It’s another for the team’s leadership to push their own personal beliefs on the grown men they employ.”
Surprisingly, the usually sarcastic Rome actually affirmed the Royals—cushioned by multiple “let everyone do as they choose” disclaimers—suggesting that if porn becomes an addiction it should be addressed like any other addiction.
“Addiction is an issue in every walk of life,” Rome said. “If you had an issue with alcohol or drugs, wouldn’t you hope your employer would be there to provide assistance. Well, the Royals are there for their employees. This just sounds a little bizarre because the Royals are the first team to do it… But I don’t have an issue with them having their players sit in on this seminar.”
Pray that other teams will build upon the Royals’ courage and use their power and platform to confront this issue as forcefully as they would domestic violence and drugs and social media.
This article originally appeared here.