People love to say that Bostonians are racist. First of all, one bad apple doesn’t poison the tree. Whenever the Red Sox (or Celtics/Bruins/Pats) are winning, idiots who can’t actually come up with cogent arguments will whip out the old reliable “at least we’re not a bunch of racists.”
What’s next, a “that’s what she said” joke?
But this season, it’s the Yankees, not the Red Sox, who are drawing ire for their exclusionary, unwelcoming behavior.
The Bronx franchise made headlines earlier this summer for being the only team* to not host a Pride Night in June, the official Pride month. The Yankees also decided to restore their relationship with Papa John’s Pizza after the founder used racial slurs during a business call. And they got swept by the Red Sox last weekend. Their PR team must hate them.
It reflects poorly on all of MLB, which is trying desperately to become more inclusive and appealing.
Billy Witz of The New York Times wrote, “Baseball’s most famous franchise has stood by as welcoming gestures for L.G.B.T. sports fans have become increasingly common… [there’s] embarrassment of being the only major league team never to have held a pride night at a game,” though he also aptly noted,
“The Yankees are often slow to embrace change.”
Seriously, not one night, out of an entire month dedicated to gay rights. And to those who bring up GM Brian Cashman’s behind-the-scenes work with organizations that help gay and transgender youth, I obviously commend their work. But the point of Pride nights is to help LGBT people feel welcome in baseball, publicly. David Kilmnick of the L.G.B.T. Network says that when teams host these events, it “shows the ballpark is a place for everyone.”
Only this week did the Yankees announce that they’ve decided to host a series of Pride events next season, though a team spokesman told the Times that the plans were not close to being completed. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Regardless, history will remember the Yankees as being the last team to finally host a Pride night.
Massachusetts, meanwhile, was the first state to legalize gay marriage back in 2003. At the time, it was only the 6th jurisdiction in the world after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec to do so. They set an example, and states, now the entire country, followed.
The Yankees are famously averse to the kinds of theme nights that other teams host; their seasonal calendar is about as monotonous and bland as their well-groomed ballplayers. But in their quest to remain neutral to the probable hundreds of requests they receive for themed promotional games, the Yankees are making a mistake. They don’t want to say yes to one group for fear of alienating another? Well, in this case, the people they would be alienating are homophobes. It shouldn’t even be a discussion.
In this fraught time in which the President of the United States won’t condemn Nazis and White Supremacists without also condemning “many sides,” – meaning Jews, African-Americans, basically everyone a Nazi would want to kill – you can’t not choose a side. So to the Yankees, I say, you better host that Pride Night. Better yet, host all kinds of inclusive events for people who want to come to baseball games. Don’t be the team that was the last to do a good thing; be the team that went above and beyond and set an even better example for the teams that came before you to follow.
*Note: the Angels did not host a pride event this season, but announced during Pride Month that they would be hosting one next year