Every year June comes and with it comes a month of arguing about the concept of Pride activities at sporting events. Ranging from teams simply selling team gear with a rainbow color scheme to a full blown Pride Night with performers in drag. As expected this leads to outcries from certain individuals and even players refusing to wear a uniform with rainbow decals or logos. Let’s explore those subjects beginning with player refusal.
Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson wore the standard Rays hat and removed the rainbow decal from their uniforms this past weekend. Citing “religious reasons”, the very much outdated argument against “lifestyle choice” was used to justify their lack of participation. This argument, which stood on flimsy ground to begin with, is completely invalid. Those who refer to religion in cases like this are using it to shield their own prejudices without having to take accountability for them. Adding lifestyle choice on top of that is just doubling down on their own close-minded beliefs.
The term lifestyle choice was used more frequently in television and film 20+ years ago and has significantly decreased and rightfully so. Unfortunately the extended previous use of the term has resulted in it still being considered acceptable to use when it is in fact inaccurate. For those who do not quite understand and need a little help here you go, it is not choice. Outfit selection is a choice. The type of vehicle you drive is a choice. Sexuality? Not a choice.
Part of the blame also falls on the Rays. Tampa made it optional to wear the rainbow hat and decal which led to the group of players opting out. This should not be an option, it should be absolutely mandatory in order to play. One must wonder how people would feel if players opted out of wearing the patriotic uniforms on Memorial Day or 4th of July. There is a very large percentage of players who are not from the United States and there are definitely those who disagree with how the country handles their affairs domestically and internationally. Additionally, sort of funny how when it comes to opting out of wearing Pride gear is acceptable, but if an individual were to opt out of the patriotic uniforms or participating in the National Anthem before the game it is a crime against humanity and should be tried for treason. Double standards much?
There is a very large contingent of people who have decided to rally against “grooming of children”. Just like the aforementioned use of “lifestyle choice”, this is also very much outdated. Concerns about grooming can be traced back decades as this is not a new argument from those oppose the LGBTQIA+ community and Pride Events. This intellectually deficient tactic has unfortunately seen a resurgence in popularity. The most recent example is a homophobic senator from Texas proposing to ban drag shows in the presence of minors. This is a proposal based on attacking LGBTQIA+ individuals and not out of general concern of children.
This is rooted in the fear of children being groomed at drag shows, something that simply does not happen. What this logic says about the person using it is that they know absolutely nothing about drag performances. The types of performances in public venues such as Pride events are much different from those at a bar close to or after midnight. As far as the sports world is concerned this is targeting drag performers at games.
A recent Pride night including drag queens took place in Toronto and was instantly a target for hate mongers. The upcoming event in Milwaukee will receive similar outcries and criticism from those who hide behind nonsense to justify their bigotry. This should not be a deterrent to other teams looking to have their own Pride events. The sports world has a sub-par relationship with LGBTQIA+ individuals to say the least. Continuing to push forward will help people who may not feel safe or accepted at sporting events feel more comfortable when attending. Each and every team has fans and even employees that identify as members of this community and having a good relationship with them is a good business decision. Not just from a public relations standpoint, but as an additional stream of revenue. Speaking of…
There are a few things to consider when teams are selling Pride merchandise. At some level there are definitely people in those organizations who genuinely care about the LGBTQIA+ community. There is also a contingent that make decisions based entirely in financial reasons. Finally there are the fans who find themselves walking the fine line between both parties.
Fans of teams may want to show off their fandom with rainbow themed gear, but that can result in an internal struggle, especially for fans of teams that sell items but do not have an actual Pride event or night. On one hand it is fans wanting to wear Pride themed gear and on the other it is easy to recognize as a cash grab by the team. Sure, teams can mend the gap by having people in mascot costumes attend the Pride event of a city, but it is not quite the same. Taking that next step would go a long way towards actually making a difference to help people feel included in the world of sports.
As the month of June progresses there will be many positive aspects of Pride month. Unfortunately there will controversies as well. These will come from the expected sources who lack the cognitive ability to form an original thought and instead will regurgitate talking points from 50 years ago. Let’s hope that the increased organized attack on the LGBTQIA+ community will not result in teams canceling Pride events in the future. These events are very important and need to be expanded upon going forward. Then and only then will it appear as an actual effort towards promoting inclusivity rather than the cash grab it still appears to be.