The Tampa Bay Rays’ Pride Night this past Saturday inadvertently turned into a throwback night when one of the five players who declined to wear a rainbow logo explained the decision with a very dated reason.
The Rays have held Pride Night before, the latest being the 16th edition, but this year, they took an idea from the San Francisco Giants and added rainbow logos to their uniforms for a game. The team intended for it to be a voluntary exercise, and some players opted out: Rays pitchers Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Jalen Beeks, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson chose not to have the rainbow logo for Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. (Raley and Beeks were the only two who actually played.) After the game, the team had Adam speak for the players who didn’t wear the patch. Try to figure out what he’s saying with this quote, via the Tampa Bay Times:
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Adam said. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.
“It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
Using Jesus as a shield doesn’t work anymore. He didn’t say that! Besides, that strategy was officially retired when Thom Brennaman called himself a “man of faith” in the middle of nuking his own career.
Even rhetorically, I don’t know how to follow this. So Adam and the other four players didn’t want to wear the rainbow logo because of their faith, but the LGBTQ community is welcomed and loved at the Rays’ stadium, but wearing the logo is endorsing a lifestyle that shouldn’t be encouraged or publicly endorsed, but it’s not a judgmental decision and they care about the LGBTQ community—just not to the point where they’d support it in public. Now that’s being an ally. One wonders what would’ve happened if a player tried this sort of explanation to get out of wearing tactical camo baseball socks.
The Dodgers and Giants reportedly had full player participation on their Pride Nights, but the Rays couldn’t get there. Manager Kevin Cash said he did not expect the opt-outs to create any division in the clubhouse, instead saying that it led to “a lot of conversation and valuing the different perspectives inside the clubhouse but really appreciating the community that we’re trying to support here.”
What were the different perspectives there? What’s the opposing viewpoint to “The LGBTQ community should feel unconditional support” that should be given equal consideration? The idea that it’s some kind of debate was already hack in 2012. What Jason Adam said is just a repackaged point from a line of ignorant athletes before him. Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said in 2012 that he wouldn’t play with a gay teammate, because “biblically, it’s not right.” After Billy Bean, the second major-league player to publicly come out, visited his clubhouse in 2015, then-Mets infielder Daniel Murphy said he disagreed “with the fact that Billy is a homosexual.” There’s a fact, and there’s a person rejecting that fact. The room for disagreement doesn’t exist.
At the time, Bean handled Murphy’s remarks with a generous and pragmatic response. “When I took this job at MLB, I knew it was going to take time for many to embrace my message of inclusion,” he wrote for MLB.com. “Expecting everyone to be supportive right away is simply not realistic. If you asked anyone who has competed in high-level men’s professional sports, I believe they would agree with me. This doesn’t change the way I go about my business, or my belief in what I am doing, but it’s reality.”
That was seven years ago. I’m not under the impression that the Rays are defeating homophobia with an alternate logo, but more players are willing to embrace and support the message behind it. Meanwhile, the few holdouts keep using the same talking point that makes as much sense now as it did a decade ago.