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SURPRISE, Ariz. - If you want to bring a copy of Hustler magazine to the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, Dayton Moore can't stop you.

If you casually drop F-bombs in your everyday conversation, keep on talking. If you hit the nightclubs until 2 every morning and are able to perform acts of baseball greatness, God bless you.

Moore, the Kansas City Royals 51-year-old general manager, won't judge his employees on their hobbies but will let his spirituality guide his everyday life, despite working in an industry notorious for bawdy and, by some standards, immoral behavior.

He's even willing to put himself at odds with those who believe a workplace should be free of moralizing.

Moore exposed the Royals organization to criticism last week when it became the first major professional sports franchise to conduct an anti-pornography seminar, led by the non-profit organization Fight the New Drug.

Moore mandated that Royals minor league players attend but could only suggest major league players take part.

He stressed to his players that he not only believes that pornography is the root of evil but that it can also become a detriment to a player's career and destroy his personal life.

"It's not something truthfully I've ever been comfortable discussing for a lot of reasons," Moore tells USA TODAY. "But when you sit down with young men and they open up and talk about their struggles, often times you can trace it back to pornography. It's been a major issue in their lives. They are being exposed to that at such a young age and become obsessed with that.

"(Fight The New Drug) has done thousands of hours of research, and there's scientific evidence what pornography does to the brain and rewiring the brain. It's no different than drugs or alcohol. You start drinking too early, or smoking marijuana, your brain starts craving it.

"So, to me, educating our players about the harmful effects of pornography is similar to the importance of honoring women, respecting women and looking at them as human beings and not sexual objects. Most of these young men are going to be husbands and fathers. It's our job to educate them."

Fight The New Drug's claims on its website include the notion that "repeated consumption of porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself" and "porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain." It cites myriad academic research into the subject while urging readers to "get the facts."

However, voluminous research counters the notion that pornography is somehow a public health, rather than a First Amendment issue. Notably and most recently, a group of eight neuroscientists debunked many of Fight the New Drug's claims in a 2016 Salt Lake Tribune editorial.

"Based on our expertise in neuroscience and clinical psychology," the group wrote, "we find that FTND is systematically misrepresenting science."

Moore's outreach to the group wasn't intended to be publicized, until Fight the New Drug posted photos of Royals players and the workshop on Instagram.

It was met with scorn, for reasons both scientific and societal. And it waded in dangerous waters about integrating church and state for a franchise that received $225 million in public funding for stadium renovations last decade.

Elle Stanger, an adult entertainer, lobbyist and sex writer, said messages such as the one pushed by Fight The New Drug improperly likens consensual adult sex work to violent sex trafficking.

"If the KC Royals want to teach their players anything about pornography," Stanger wrote in an e-mail to USA TODAY, "it should be that all people should engage in work under their own volition and after being fully informed of any potential work hazards or risks. I don't know of any sports team management that has lived experience or insight regarding pornography or sex education.

"I very much doubt that an anti-porn message will do anything except reiterate tired old stereotypes. ... As someone with over a decade as a sex worker, the majority of anti-porn sentiment is based on sex-negative fear mongering.

"If the adult players are distracted by non-baseball materials, I would say that these pros need to focus a little more on their method of income, and leave porn, TV, texting or other methods of entertainment for off-work time."

Pornography -- in magazine or movie form -- was once as much a staple in baseball clubhouses as chewing tobacco. Visiting clubhouses were infamous for their stacks of lad mags, even showing movies on TV screens, with players sitting back and laughing.

It's now a different era, and for the Royals, a new culture that's not only being accepted but embraced.

"The porn thing is a big deal," says left fielder Alex Gordon, who has been with the organization since 2005, "and with the outlet to social media and everything, people don't realize how much it affects people. I think the best way to do it is talk about it, and get it out there. Dayton is our leader, and a lot of us in here feel the same way as he does, trying to do the right thing."

Says new Royals first baseman Lucas Duda: "Everybody has their different views, but I think if you respect that boundary, everything is fine. For me, pornography is the last thing I'm probably going to watch before I go play baseball. I've got enough stuff to handle. I think his message sets a good tone in here."

Among a half-dozen Royals surveyed, none expressed resentment to the anti-porn workshop nor the signs in their clubhouse informing players they will have a private viewing of Paul, Apostle of Christ at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

"We didn't have guys protesting or walking out or anything like that," Moore said. "We're not pushing them one way or the other. We're just presenting them information. Ultimately, players have to make their own choices.

"I'm not into politics. I'm not into what positions people hold."

And if they refuse to listen, Moore insists, no harm, no foul.

"I'm not judging anyone," he said. "I don't hang out until 2 in the morning in the hotel and say, 'Oh, where is he coming from? What's going on here?' Shame on me if I look at one of our players or one of our staff members in a judgmental way. This is not what it's all about."

Moore, who was raised in the Methodist Church but now practices a non-denominational Christian faith, doesn't care about the criticism. He'll never apologize for his strong religious beliefs. His faith, he says, provides him the foundation to persevere. And he pledges to impact the Royals clubhouse.

"When you're committed and relentless about trying to lead and do the right thing," Moore says, "and you're presented with information that you think is important for your players to know and you don't do it, it'll haunt you. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't share this."

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March 14, 2018


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