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St. Louis Cardinals denied Outsports a credential for Christian Day, so we bought a ticket

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Lance Berkman, an anti-LGBT campaigner, was the featured speaker.

The St. Louis Cardinals held Christian Day after Sunday’s game against Arizona.
Erik Hall

ST. LOUISMatt Carpenter never said the word God. Trevor Rosenthal never said the word Christian. Neither Carpenter nor Rosenthal said the word Jesus.

That’s how tame the St. Louis Cardinals’ Christian Day was Sunday at Busch Stadium.

The two former All-Stars were supposedly speaking about their religion after Sunday’s game, but Carpenter talked about the camaraderie of the Christian guys on the team and Rosenthal discussed how it helps him to have people to talk to when things are tough.

Yet, the franchise with the most World Series titles in the National League, seemed afraid of Outsports writing about the event.

I was denied a credential after requesting one first through Outsports and then through SB Nation, Outsports’ parent company.

Chris Tunno, the St. Louis Communications Coordinator, wrote me that “Major League Baseball and its member clubs do not credential web/blog sites. ... Major League Baseball and its member clubs credential only those media wishing to cover teams and their players, where a theme night would not fall under that category.”

Tunno told me instead to buy a ticket. So I did.

It marks the first time Outsports was denied a media credential in its 17-year history, according to co-founder Jim Buzinski. Outsports has been credentialed to cover Super Bowls and NFL games, Final Fours, the MLS Cup, MLB games, USOC events and even the ESPYs.

I’ve previously covered MLB games in San Diego and Chicago and events as big as the Stanley Cup Final.

But at a Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks game in late July, the Busch Stadium press box — which has hosted three World Series and an All-Star Game — didn’t have room.

While the Cardinals denied a credential to an LGBT publication, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny tried to claim Christians are an afflicted minority during his Christian Day talk.

Matheny said of his players that talked ahead of him at Christian Day, “For them to share something that isn’t politically correct anymore, something that isn’t publicly acceptable, for them to stand up here and to share … takes a great amount of courage.”

In addition to Carpenter, Rosenthal, and Matheny, Sunday’s speakers included current Cardinals pitchers Zach Duke and Adam Wainwright, former Cardinal player Lance Berkman, and Cardinals announcer Rick Horton. Of the game’s 40,827 attendance, around 1,500 people stayed for the Christian Day ceremony.

None of the seven speakers mentioned the words lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Outsports’ interest in the event stemmed from Berkman campaigning against LGBT rights two years ago.

In a 2015 campaign ad, Berkman referred to transgender people as “troubled men who claim to be women.” The ad helped defeat Houston Proposition 1, a public referendum that looked to prevent LGBT discrimination in Houston.

In November 2015 after the proposition was defeated, Berkman told NBC Sports that he regretted using the term “troubled men” and said it was language given to him by “the people behind the ad.” In the same interview he told NBC, “We shouldn’t have the rights of 2 percent of the population trump the rights of the other 98 percent. Is it a mental choice? I don’t know. But it’s a Pandora’s Box.”

Berkman, a six-time MLB All-Star, helped St. Louis win the 2011 World Series. In June, there was backlash to Berkman being brought in as a Christian Day speaker.

The St. Louis Cardinals released a statement in June that said about Berkman, “We welcome him back this year to discuss his faith.” Perhaps in an attempt to dampen the controversy, the Cardinals also decided to hold a Pride Night in August.

Berkman stayed away from LGBT politics Sunday. The closest he came was telling the crowd to be “obedient” to the Bible.

“Faith and obedience go hand in hand,” Berkman said. “You can’t have faith unless you’re walking in the way that God wants you to walk.

I wanted a credential since four active players and the current manager were the opening acts for Berkman on Sunday, and it would have been nice to ask them how they feel about Berkman’s politics.

Carpenter, a Texas native, might have insight on Texas’ current push for anti-LGBT legislation regarding sports, adoption and marriage.

Maybe the players that spoke at Christian Day don’t have much experience with the LGBT community or maybe they each have an LGBT sibling. It’s hard to know since I didn’t get the chance to ask.

The Cardinals didn’t want their players talking about Berkman, but at least we know how one man who says he is a Busch Stadium beer vendor felt. He decided to boycott the day.

I talked to several fans before and after the game. Two women, both LGBT, said before the game that it bothered them for the Cardinals to condone Berkman’s politics.

“They should 100 percent be more inclusive,” said Jiana West on Sunday morning as she walked to a coffee shop in St. Louis’ LGBT neighborhood, The Grove. “It’s 2017. It’s just not good to be homophobic anymore or honor people who are homophobic. It’s disrespectful.”

“It’s disappointing as a Cardinals fan and as a person,” Erin Bogard said about Berkman’s politics while sitting outside Busch Stadium near the beginning of Sunday’s game. Bogard said she and her mom attended every home game of the 2011 World Series.

All the fans I spoke to after the Christian Day ceremony said they enjoyed the speakers. Most didn’t condone Berkman’s politics, though Colton Albers was excited the Cardinals brought Berkman to speak despite sentiment against it.

“I have to commend the Cardinals — to stick to their guns and say, ‘We are going to have this day,’” Albers said. “Not only to give the opportunity for Lance Berkman, one of the great Cardinal players, to speak, but also for all the Christian fans — who also happen to be Cardinals fans — and to give us this time to come together as one.”

It’s less than a month until the Cardinals’ Pride Night on Aug. 25. No speakers have been announced. The only aspect of the night promoted on the Cardinals website is a hat that fans can buy with a rainbow-colored St. Louis logo.

I wonder how many current Cardinals players will speak on the field before or after the team’s Pride Night. More importantly, will the Cardinals let LGBT media into the press box or locker room for that game?

Or will they have to buy a ticket?

Erik Hall is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, National Sports Media Association, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He can be reached on Facebook, Twitter @HallErik, or by email at hallerik7@gmail.com