Tampa Bay Rays refusal to wear Pride logo signals a deeper issue in the MLB

The decision that five Tampa Bay Rays pitchers made in refusing to support Pride Night indicates that true LGBTQ+ support in the MLB has a long way to go.

In recent years, the MLB has made strides in publicly supporting the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the month of June. More and more teams are participating in Pride Night, in which teams emblazon their uniforms with rainbow colors.

But the Tampa Bay Rays quickly showed that this strategy, despite its good-natured intentions, doesn’t fundamentally erase bigotry in the MLB. It’s still a league where gay players have often been treated with that same lack of support.

When Los Angeles Dodgers star Glenn Burke came out to his team and teammates in the late 1970s, he believed that many in the clubhouse didn’t care. Some did, and Burke was suspiciously traded to the Oakland A’s after coming out. As Burke once described it, “prejudice just won out”, and he was forced into early retirement at the age of 27 due to intolerance of his identity.

Despite what Glenn Burke tried to accomplish, and despite the Dodgers teammates who enjoyed playing with him, the MLB remains a sports league where no active player has ever publicly come out as gay, which sportswriter Frankie de la Cretaz pointed out when discussing the issue with initiatives like Pride Night. Unfortunately, Pride Night isn’t enough to change a culture of intolerance found at every level in the league.

“Many team owners donate money to politicians who support anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and there have been numerous instances of players using homophobic slurs in the past few years,” de la Cretaz noted.

MLB still has work to do to support LGBTQ+ community beyond Pride Night

A large part of the reason that the MLB is seeing these initiatives to support events like Pride Night is because Billy Bean, the only other openly gay MLB player besides Burke, serves as the MLB’s SVP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in addition to being the Special Assistant to the Commissioner.

On his website, Bean even describes how baseball’s historically homophobic culture drove him away from the game he loved at the prime of his career:

“As a closeted gay man in the brutally anti-gay world of baseball, Bean faced a wrenching choice between his love of the game and the love of his life. Ultimately unable to reconcile the two worlds he lived in, he walked away from pro baseball in the prime of his career.”

It’s clear that today, Bean is trying to inspire the league to take part in what shouldn’t be controversial initiatives — making LGBTQ+ fans feel safe and welcome — yet still, there are moments when MLB organizations don’t want to play ball. For Spirit Day in October, The Athletic’s Levi Weaver couldn’t help but notice that the Texas Rangers, whose own name is steeped in a history of racism and violence, didn’t mention that the day was dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ kids who have experienced bullying.

For the Rays, players like pitcher Jason Adam illustrated the contradictory nature of his own beliefs: he wants all fans to feel “welcome and loved here”, and in the same breath, says that he doesn’t want to “encourage” being queer because Jesus “encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior.”

As much as Billy Bean and other LGBTQ+ fans want to make this a welcoming space, as de la Cretaz illustrates and Adam unwittingly made abundantly clear, the MLB still has a long way to go.

Source: FanSided

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