One of the first big instances of Pride Night controversy in pro sports arose last June, when five pitchers on the Tampa Bay Rays refused to wear rainbow patches on their jerseys. Since then, about two dozen pro athletes in multiple leagues, including the NHL, have also refused to wear rainbow insignias on their uniforms.
With that in mind, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told teams to avoid placing Pride logos on uniforms this season, he told reporters Thursday. Manfred said the edict was enacted to protect players…from their own homophobia.
“We have told teams, in terms of actual uniforms, hats, bases that we don’t think putting logos on them is a good idea just because of the desire to protect players,” he said, via The Washington Post. “Not putting them in a position of doing something that may make them uncomfortable because of their personal views.”
The decision was made in February, as a response to the Rays’ situation last year. MLB told clubs it doesn’t want uniform space dedicated to support causes that aren’t league-driven, such as Mother’s Day or Jackie Robinson Day. (The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco have already worn rainbow patches this season, due to a preexisting agreement.)
Obviously, successful Pride nights can occur without players wearing rainbows on their uniforms. MLB senior vice president of inclusion Billy Bean told Outsports the Rays’ Pride event this year was “one of the most successful Pride Nights” he’s ever attended, for what it’s worth.
But still, it doesn’t sit well that MLB is making Pride Night accommodations for players who don’t want to publicly support LGBTQ+ inclusion. The league mandates that players wear military garb on their jerseys multiple times per season, for example.
Why not the same for Pride?
— OH! TENGO SUERTE (@Dan_Alper) June 15, 2023
Just going to leave this here 🙄 pic.twitter.com/JY8lSL1syE
— katie (@itsmitchmarney) June 15, 2023
So every team collectively decided to do this? Make it make sense Rob. pic.twitter.com/kHgaU4MNFG
— Ethan (@EpicGamer126642) June 16, 2023
would be fine with a blanket policy for this type of thing if we can also ditch the armed forces cosplay uniforms and accessories we get flooded with every year
— snackson (@jacks_onS) June 15, 2023
Manfred added that MLB wants to leave Pride celebrations up to individual clubs, rather than putting it on the league calendar. This season, 29 out of 30 teams are holding, or have held, Pride Nights (the Texas Rangers are the lone exception).
It’s been a mixed Pride season for MLB. While there have been many successful events, multiple players have spoken out against LGBTQ+ inclusion and imagery. Pitcher Anthony Bass shared social media posts urging boycotts of Bud Light and Target, only for the Jays to perform damage control on his behalf. The Blue Jays even planned for Bass to catch the ceremonial first pitch on their Pride Night, but released him once the backlash became too fierce.
The Boston Red Sox also called up a pitcher who’s espoused anti-LGBTQ+ views days before their Pride Night. The hurler in question, Matt Dermody, tweeted that gay people are going to hell.
But the biggest Pride Night saga has revolved around the Dodgers, who are slated to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at their event Friday. After briefly capitulating to performative right-wing backlash, the Dodges re-invited the Sisters days later.
It’s easy to host Pride events when there’s little pushback and the rainbow dollars flow in. The hard part comes when there’s pushback.
MLB discouraging teams from wearing rainbow insignias shows the league chose the path of least resistance, their LGBTQ+ fans be damned.
Scroll down for more reaction to Manfred’s rainbow revelation…
Can you imagine the shit show if some team opted out of one of those military support days?
— JackSlipperyEel (@JackSlipperyEel) June 15, 2023