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Braves Defend Giving Gay Games Its Night

(The story was published in 2001).

The Atlanta Braves’ pregame event to support the city’s bid for the 2006 Gay Games went off without incident Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press.

The Atlanta Braves’ pregame event to support the city’s bid for the 2006 Gay Games went off without incident Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press.

The team sold a block of 1,700 tickets to Atlanta Games Inc., which was courting officials from the Federation of Gay Games on a site visit to the city. The team had also added its public support to the Atlanta bid. The publicity over the move drew hundreds of complaints to the team, but there were no protests Wednesday during the Braves-Astros game.

‘‘We think it’s the right thing to do and a smart business decision,’’ Braves spokesman Jim Schultz told AP. As part of the package, Atlanta Games was given a pregame ceremony, had a member throw out the first pitch and had the National Anthem sung by members of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus.

As Jay Croft wrote in his online column of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

``Hundreds of gay people went to the Braves game last night. Some even performed the national anthem, and another threw out the first pitch.

``And guess what?

``Turner Field did not collapse into a giant sink-hole, the grass in center field is just as green--and the sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar.''

The treatment accorded the Gay Games group was par for the course as far as the Braves were concerned. Any group that purchases a block of at least 300 tickets is entitled to the same treatment.

‘This is not gay night at the Braves,‘ Shultz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ‘‘Someone called in with, ‘Why don’t they have a Caucasian Male Day?’ Well, if a group of them got together and bought tickets, we’d let them have a night at the Braves, too. (Recently) it was the Lutheran Brotherhood. That doesn’t mean we prefer Lutherans over anybody else.’’

The Braves have remained resolute despite an estimated 500 to 600 complaints from fans who accused the team of supporting the ‘‘gay lifestyle.’’

‘‘We’re talking a small number compared to (comments on) the John Rocker situation,’’ Schultz told the Journal-Constitution.

Team president Stan Kasten took any criticism in stride. ‘‘We get letters from people with strong feelings on many issues over the course of a season,’’ Kasten told the paper. ‘‘This is just one more issue. ... I don’t want to characterize it as anything greater than it is.’’

On online poll by the Journal-Constitution found respondents split on whether honoring the Gay Games bid was a good idea. The virulently anti-gay American Family Association issued an alert after hearing of the event. And letter writers filled up the AJC's online mailbag with their arguments, pro and con.

‘‘I have had my opinion of the Atlanta Braves and the City of Atlanta forever changed by this story of the Braves wanting to host the homosexual games.’’ an Ohio man wrote. ‘‘(No, not ‘gay‘ games, there is nothing gay about the sordid, disgusting, deadly CHOICE of homosexuality). Hosting this disgrace is tantamount to encouraging this perversion.’’

That brought this response from an Atlanta resident: ‘‘The need to recognize gays as a separate entity is brought about by those most vocal against it ... by virtue of exclusion, judgment, hatred, and ages-old misconceptions and prejudices. I would imagine that gays in Atlanta (everywhere?) would relish being just one of the crowd, comfortable in knowing that their mere presence is not going to spark hatred and vitriol. They would love to be invisible because of acceptance. Indeed, I would wager that all the attention-getting activities, parades and political rhetoric would vaporize if gay members of our community were afforded the simple legal rights of safety, fair employment practices, and human respect from others that is part and parcel of our straight life. And we wonder why every other major urban center in the country ... the WORLD ... views Atlanta as a joke. We are a joke ... and the joke is on us!’’

The Braves are not the only major league team to sell blocks of tickets to gay groups. The Chicago Cubs ‘‘Out at the Ballgame’’ promotion on June 23 was a big success. The Minnesota Twins, in conjunction with OutFront Minnesota and the Human Rights Campaign, have a gay pride event set for a game Sept. 14.

Atlanta government and many businesses have gotten behind the bid for the 2006 Gay Games. The Georgia city, which hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, is a finalist along with Chicago, Los Angeles and Montreal.

The Journal-Constitution, a leading voice in the city, timed an editorial to coincide with the Federation visit:

‘‘What kind of sporting event might bring Atlanta $350 million in financial impact, a million visitors, 20,000 athletes and 3,000 participants in cultural shows? ‘‘Another Olympics? A Super Bowl? The World Series? ‘‘No. The 2006 Gay Games. ‘‘... Atlanta, experienced from its presentation of the 1996 Olympics, has much to offer. Not the least of its attractions is its growing reputation as a gay mecca.’’

A decision on the winning bid will be made by the Federation at its October meeting in South Africa.