The Rays, of baseball’s American League, are one of three teams, the others being the National League San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, to incorporate Pride Month support in their uniforms. Five Rays decided to decline to wear the patch above: Brooks Raley, Jalen Beeks, Jason Adam, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson. There have been no such defections from their team’s mandated corporate position on the Giants or Dodgers—you know, California. I am willing to bet my head that there are many more than five players on the three squads who resent having to be a walking political statement, but who have calculated, “Well, it’s just a patch.”
The explanation of the spokesman for the five Rays players was weak , but about what I’d expect from a pro athlete. Jason Adam said,
A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision. 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…we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.
Kumbaya, man! Naturally, this did not satisfy the sports media. The New York Times wrote that the abstention of the five players “undercut” the Rays gesture. “[A]llowing the players to opt out of the promotion — and to use the platform to endorse an opposite viewpoint — the Rays undercut the message of inclusion they were trying to send. Words like “lifestyle” and “behavior” are widely known tropes often interpreted as a polite cover for condemning gay culture,” the paper sniffed.
Rays President Matt Silverman said his organization wanted to “share its values” with the patch on the uniforms, but would not force players to comply if they were uncomfortable.
But of course the option itself was a form of coercion.
By having the patch at all, the Rays were putting pressure on all employees to conform to the organization’s position on a politically controversial issue, and I don’t mean civil rights for LGBTQ individuals. Thanks to the hyper-aggressive efforts of activists in the gay and trans community, that emblem, like “Pride Month” itself, now also stands for other more dubious matters, like teaching young children about sexual variety before they know what sex is, allowing the Lia Thomases of the world to turn women’s sports into a joke, or letting pre-pubescent kids get sex-change surgery or hormone treatments because they have decided, or been pressured into deciding, that flipping their gender is what they desire. The ethical breach is the same for the Rays whether their grandstanding is pro- or anti-. It is a wrongful abuse of power and position to make employees publicly promote or reject their employer’s political views, and this issue is political. That’s the case whatever the position is, and however virtuous it might seem or be.
The choice for the players is binary: it’s either “Yes,” which means “We agree!” or “No,” which means “we don’t.” It’s a pity that the five Rays dissenters didn’t have the wit or clarity to say that their refusal to wear the patch has nothing to do with LGTBQ matters or Pride Month, and that their freedom as individuals should not to be coerced into supporting a cause unrelated to their duties to the team and management. Why wouldn’t the next patch be a “Joe Biden” salute, or “Let’s Go Brandon,” or “End Climate Change Now” or “No Human Is Illegal” or “Black Lives Matter”?
I would have refused to wear the emblem. I have also seen what happens when you take such a stand, as I have done in jobs more than once. My all-time least favorite boss ever sent around a sign-up sheet to participate in an event for a charity organization he chaired. I was one of a small group of staff that declined, but the only one who explained why I declined, protesting that my personal time was my own, and that it was inappropriate for someone who had control over my job to use that position to exert pressure on me to support his objectives and interests.
He was a petty, insecure man, and he never forgave me, reacting as I knew he would. I should not have been put in that position, and neither should the Rays players have to look like they are opposing their own team mates.
Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ