When I read over the weekend in an excellent article by LZ Granderson that Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was speaking at a fundraiser for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I cringed. FCA makes attacks on same-sex marriage and “gay” sex part of its nine core tenets. They also ban gay people from leadership roles.
It made no sense to me. Led by my longtime friend Erik Braverman and one of the greatest allies in pro-sports front offices, Lon Rosen, the Dodgers have become the gold standard for LGBTQ inclusion in pro sports. They work regularly with the community throughout the year. They host a Pride Night that is the envy of sports. They have sponsored our last two Outsports Pride events.
How could the manager of this team end up at an FCA fundraiser?
Yet as I read Granderson’s Los Angeles Times article about Roberts’ visit with FCA, it started to make a lot of sense.
Roberts is Christian and, as he told Granderson, he looks for opportunities to share about his faith with other Christians.
And there was this:
“I didn’t know about their bylaws prior to committing,” Roberts told Granderson. “It was something once I committed to, I wanted to see it through.”
Roberts seemingly found out about FCA’s policies only hours or days before his talk. As someone who values my word and the commitments I make, I can understand his desire to not break that commitment.
It’s also completely believable — and even understandable — that Roberts didn’t know about FCA’s anti-gay policies. I talk to LGBTQ people in sports who don’t know the organization takes a strong position against same-sex marriage and bans gay people from leadership positions. There are many FCA members who don’t know.
The idea that the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers wasn’t aware of all of FCA’s policies is hardly far-fetched.
So now he knows. Roberts told the Los Angeles Times’ LZ Granderson that he doesn’t agree with it, and he said he intended to discuss the importance of inclusion during his talk.
“I love everyone and everyone is entitled to make their own decisions,” Roberts said. “I’m not here to judge.”
This makes him very different from, say, Tony Dungy. The former Indianapolis Colts head coach was once the main speaker at a fundraiser for the Indiana Family Institute, which exists explicitly to attack gay rights. Dungy said at the time he supported the work of IFI, a sharp contrast from Roberts’ thoughts about FCA’s position.
Dungy has also done nothing over time to step away from the anti-gay beliefs he raised money for, only doubling down with veiled homophobia about not wanting Michael Sam on his team.
It seems people across the LGBTQ community largely feel the same way. A torrent of attacks haven’t been levied against Roberts or the Dodgers. Outsports podcaster Randy Boose, with whom I haven’t spoken about this issue, seems to have come to a conclusion similar to mine.
To be sure, this isn’t the first time Roberts has spoken to an FCA group. I can completely understand being uninformed about their long-standing anti-gay policies. He gets the benefit of the doubt from me.
The question that will linger into next year and even beyond… Is this the last time Roberts speaks to an FCA group? If it’s not, and we see Roberts back at FCA helping raise money a year from now, I think many of us will likely be writing very different columns.