It’s the first Series appearance for the Nationals’ franchise (which started as the Montreal Expos) and the third for the Astros, who won the title in 2017. Whatever similarities the teams have on the field (great starting pitching featuring former Detroit Tigers is one), they are very divergent when it comes to public support for LGBTQ fans. Here is where they stand:
- The Nationals celebrated their 15th year of having an LGBTQ Pride night in 2019. This year featured former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, on the mound as the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by his husband.
Frank and his husband, Jim Ready, stood together on the mound as Ready threw out the ceremonial first pitch on the 15th annual Night OUT at Nationals Park, one of the largest and longest running LGBTQ nights in professional sports. They followed it up with a kiss.
“When I was a kid playing baseball, being gay was the worst thing,” said Frank, the first member of Congress to come out voluntarily as openly gay. “Nobody ever wanted to say it or do it.”
- When a gay couple announced their engagement at the event this year, the Nationals donated $1,500 to a Washington LGBTQ youth advocacy group.
Teddy said YES!— Nats Youth Academy (@NatsAcademy) June 5, 2019
In celebration of the newly engaged couple, the Nationals foundation will donate $1,500 to @SMYALDMV in support of leadership development and services for LGBTQ youth.
Join us and donate for more impact at https://t.co/9aMx3UbfrK.#NightOUT | #Nats4Good pic.twitter.com/XD700RsCzu
- Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle is one of the most pro-LGBTQ allies in sports. Doolittle caught the first pitch at Pride night and this year wore cleats at the game that sported the Pride flag and trans flag.
Happy #Pride! To my LGBTQ friends and family - we love you, support you, and we’re grateful for you. I’m proud to celebrate and stand with you because everyone deserves to feel safe and free to be who they are and to love who they love. Love is love. pic.twitter.com/RIv9Gvkket— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 1, 2019
A’s fans; if attending a baseball game on LGBT Pride Night makes you at all uncomfortable, it is probably a good idea to sell your tickets. And I have the perfect buyer. ME!
If you’d like to sell your tickets to June 17th’s LGBT Pride Night game, I will buy them from you at face value. As many as I can. No judgments. No questions asked.
Doolittle even called out in 2018 MLB players who tweeted gay slurs when they were younger, writing, “Homophobic slurs are still used to make people feel soft or weak or otherwise inferior — which is bullshit. Some of the strongest people I know are from the LGBTQIA community. It takes courage to be your true self when your identity has been used as an insult or a pejorative.”
- There’s also the experience of out gay Nationals batboy Spenser Clark’s story, which we first shared in 2015: “You see me picking up bats, providing the umpires balls, and doing anything else a player needs during the game,” he wrote. “My job is the best. Getting paid to watch baseball games is something I could only dream about when I was growing up in Kennesaw, Ga.
“I am living the dream.” Thank you, Spenser, and readers who reminded us of his story.
On the other hand ...
- The Nationals are far from perfect in dealing with their LGBTQ fans, as a recent example indicates (I learned about this after writing this article).
Ava Benach, a lifelong Nats fan who is trans, was denied entry at a stadium gate for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for carrying what security misidentified as a bookbag. She was then called “sir” by a security supervisor, she writes in the Washington Blade.
I pointed out that I carried my wallet, keys, makeup and sunglasses in the bag and there was not a book to be found. But the supervisor kept calling me sir. My wife and kids smartly hustled me out of the confrontation and we went to another gate where the purse and I were welcomed into the stadium.
Although in the stadium, my encounter with Nationals security left a bitter taste in my mouth. I am confident that the guard’s refusal to see me as a woman contributed to the decision to call my purse a bookbag. I think that he saw me as male and decided that I was not carrying a “purse” because men do not carry purses. The bitter taste lingered as the Nationals put up seven runs. I was there but did not have the joy I had before I got to the stadium. We will watch the World Series from our couch.
It’s incumbent on the Nationals to investigate this incident and ensure it never happens again.
- The Astros (along with the Texas Rangers) were one of the only two MLB teams to not have a Pride night in 2019. Houston held its only one in 2010. The team did have room to hold nights this season dedicated to “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones.”
Both teams have players who have expressed homophobic slurs.