In the middle of the decade, the Kansas City Royals finally caught up to the rest of baseball on the field, snapping a 29 year postseason drought by winning the American League Pennant in 2014 and their second World Series in 2015. But they still had yet to catch up to the most of the MLB off the field by hosting a team-sanctioned Pride Night at Kauffman Stadium.
That all changed this season, as the Royals celebrated their LGBTQ fanbase with a Pride Night on September 4th. Going into 2019, Kansas City, the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim the New York Yankees were the only MLB teams left who had never hosted an official Pride event or celebration. Back in 2003, the Rangers sponsored an LGBT fan-led fundraising event in 2003 but stopped far short of an official Pride Night. And after the Angels hosted their first Pride Night in June, and the Yankees featured a Legacy of Pride game on their schedule, also in June, the Royals weren’t going to be the only ones to evacuate the dance floor when “God is a Woman” began playing.
To their credit, even though they were late to the party, the Royals understood the kind of message it would have sent if they hadn’t added a Pride Night to their schedule. As team spokesman Toby Cook told Fox 4 Kansas City, “You get to a point where not doing it is a statement in and of itself.”
Instead, the Royals decided to make a statement of inclusion, welcoming LGBTQ fans with Pride Night staples, from a national anthem performance from the Heartland Men’s Chorus to a special rainbow-colored KC hat giveaway. As if to provide a perfect moral to the story, the Royals sold out of all 2,000 themed tickets.
For a team mired in fourth place with more than 90 losses, it turned out that their first Pride Night could not have come at a better time. It turned out rainbow hats were a bigger draw than Hunter Dozier in the cleanup spot. Who knew?
Royals Pride Night was also a triumph for the team’s LGBTQ fanbase, which had been organizing independent “Out with the Royals” tailgates in the Kauffman Stadium parking lot for the previous five years. Even though they weren’t given the stamp of official team approval during that time, the “Out with the Royals” organizers grew the event’s popularity by busing in fans from numerous local LGBTQ bars and eventually made the team take notice that they were a sizable constituency.
Finally, after years of lobbying the team, “Out with the Royals” successfully convinced Kansas City to declare an official Pride Night along with the annual tailgate. The Royals agreed to schedule it in September to coincide with the town hosting the 2019 Gay Softball World Series.
The first Royals Pride Night demonstrated what a team’s LGBTQ fanbase could accomplish with persistence and determination. “Out with the Royals” showed the team that the demand for a Pride Night was considerable and once it officially on the calendar, the team’s LGBTQ fans came through with flying rainbow colors. Hopefully, this makes it the first of decades of Pride Nights to come.
Editor’s Note: the original version of this story did not include a reference to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s first Pride Night in June. We also clarified after publishing that the Texas Rangers still have not hosted an official Pride Night despite sponsoring a one-time LGBT-fundraising ticket package in September 2003.