Today is opening Day for the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, and that means a huge homecoming after a successful road trip in Toronto and the Bronx; a sick day for tens of thousands of workers and students (don’t worry, the Tigers tweeted an excused absence note); the usual downtown traffic mess; the end of an era for home-printed admission tickets; and new strict policies on what kinds of bags fans can bring to the park and another that bans public sex.
But what hasn’t changed for the Detroit Tigers is how the team plans to celebrate pride this season.
Last week, when Outsports published its annual report on how MLB teams will show their dedication to LGBTQ fans through events that signify their dedication to inclusivity and diversity — or not — we included the Tigers in our count of 28 teams holding a Pride Night celebration in 2019.
It turns out, that’s not exactly accurate.
Now let’s be clear: the Tigers are not in the same category as the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers, the two teams without any LGBTQ events. The Tigers do have a plan, and they’ve posted it right on their official website.
But just like in past years, it’s not a “Pride Night,” like at most MLB ballparks, where tribute is paid to a team’s LGBTQ fans as part of the regular day or night general admission ticket, and the game is listed as a special day or night for the LGBTQ community on the team’s calendar of events.
The team confirmed to Outsports that their alternative is to hold “Pride Pack Day” on June 26, which is the 4-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the 6-year anniversary of the decision declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in the case of Windsor v. United States.
Promotional packages aren’t new; the Orioles and other ballclubs offer them, too. So what’s the difference between a “Pride Night” and a “Pride Pack Day”? And does it matter?
It very much does, to both fans and out journalists like Tony Paul, who covers baseball and golf for the Detroit News. He tweeted his sentiments to our co-founder Cyd Zeigler and yours truly last week, letting us know we needed to dig deeper.
The Tigers told Outsports that’s not true: “Pride Pack Day” is a Tigers-promoted event. He also confirmed the team fully supports LGBTQ charitable causes and have been doing so for five years.
And, as Paul reported in 2015, the Tigers did host an LGBT Pride Night back in June 2015, just weeks before the Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court. But privately, he noted to Outsports that when the news got out about the event, it sparked phone calls of complaint to the front office. And it appears the team didn’t promote its one and only LGBT Night, as Paul reported it in the Detroit News: it was “not listed with the theme nights on the Tigers’ website.”
For 2019, that page lists all the major themed events like opening day, Sparky Anderson bobblehead day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the start of summer and back to school, and at all of those games the team gives away items to a select number of fans.
What the team did for the first time in 2018 and continues to do in 2019 with its “Pride Pack” deal is list the event as one of its “special offers,” basically a promotional package. That includes a ticket to the game, a rainbow-brimmed hat — last year they offered a rainbow logo tee shirt, still available for purchase on the MLB shop site — and the team donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale to the Ruth Ellis Center. Tickets range from $27 to $43. The cheapest general admission tickets are $19 for standing room only and $20 for the nosebleed “Skyline” seats. But saving money on the cheap seats won’t get you a rainbow-brimmed hat.
At both the team’s and Tony Paul’s suggestion, we asked the Detroit LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which is a partner with the Tigers, about the difference in how the team celebrates Pride, compared to other local sports franchises.
“The Tigers and Chambers relationship have been growing for the past 5 years,” said Kevin Heard, president of the board of directors at the chamber. “Last year was the first time they offered the Pride Pack and was well received from the community. Now, we have recently done a community involved pride night with the Detroit Pistons that fully involved their marketing, sales, employees, and community outreach departments.
“I believe that is where we want the Tigers and all sports teams to grow to. Themed nights are important to celebrate Americans and the beautiful diversity of this country. LGBTQIA+ people are Americans and some love baseball. Others will go just because they are being included. But true inclusion is a cultural shift in the teams dynamic and true diversity and inclusion training for all employees. Ownership must make that a priority. We are excited about the pride night this year at the Tigers benefiting Ruth Ellis Center. We plan to promote it and be there. Tigers will have a lot of the same people who attended the Pistons Pride night. They will be compared and the Tigers should try and outdo them. We would love for the Tigers to make a day of it.”
“The Tigers definitely have made strides in celebrating diversity at Comerica Park over the years,” said journalist Tony Paul, in an email to Outsports from the press box at Comerica Park on opening day. “I’m hopeful they will continue to follow the lead of teams such as the Pistons and Red Wings in providing additional and important visibility for the Metro Detroit LGBTQ community — a community, by the way, that boasts thousands and thousands of diehard Tigers fans.
“Hosting a special-ticket night, which the Tigers have done for a few years now, is a fine start. But we know they can do more — a ‘real,’ full-on Pride Night is the goal — and I would expect them to get there, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
It’s important to reiterate that “Pride Pack Day” is in fact a team-sponsored event, and that part of the money raised will benefit an important LGBTQ cause. And other teams like the Baltimore Orioles offer theme night packages for fans who want to shell out a few extra bucks for a party or special hat. But that team doesn’t hide the fact that June 12th is LGBT Pride Night at Camden Yards on its official schedule.
So, just as the Baseball Hall of Fame marked the ball that Barry Bonds hit for home run number 756, we’ve added an asterisk next to the Tigers in our report, until such time as the team holds a Pride Night for all fans who buy a general admission ticket, not just the ones who shell out extra money for a promotional package ticket.