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Staten Island Yanks sue Yankees and MLB over minor league contraction scheme

Baseball’s best Pride Night uniforms weren’t enough to save the Staten Island Yankees. Now they’re taking the majors to court.

Staten Island Yankees v Batavia Muckdogs
Like their big league brethren during every postseason in the last decade, the Staten Island Yankees have been eliminated.

If we were to do a survey of favorite MLB teams among the staff at Outsports, the Yankees would rank somewhere near the bottom, probably just below the Baseball Furies.

However, even our most fervent Mets diehard has made an exception for the Staten Island Yankees. We’ve been fans ever since the former Rookie Ball affiliate unveiled rainbow pinstripe uniforms for their 2019 Pride Night.

Unfortunately, the S.I. Yanks recently became one of the casualties of Major League Baseball’s plan to contract 40 of its minor league affiliates, presumably on the grounds that growing the game isn’t worth it if the billionaires who run the Yankees are forced to pay players sub-minimum wage for five months.

After all, that 760 pound George Steinbrenner monument isn’t going to polish itself.

The Staten Island Ferry docked at the terminal near Richmond
So far the Yankees have not been able to contract the Staten Island Ferry.
Photo by Pat Carroll/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Staten Island’s ownership isn’t taking this development lying down. On Dec. 3, they became the first disbanded minor league team to take their parent club to court, filing a $20 million lawsuit against the Yankees and MLB, “to hold those entities accountable for false promises.” Needless to say, we just became even bigger Staten Island fans.

According to the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, the suit “alleges the Yankees repeatedly promised to maintain their relationship... in perpetuity. [Staten Island ownership] purchased the team for $8.35 million in September 2011, it argues, with the assurance that it wouldn’t lose the connection to the Yankees.”

Here’s why their fight is important to us: with their rainbow pinstripes, the S.I. Yankees were a very public and prominent source of Pride. And on Staten Island, that sent a visible and needed message of support to the borough’s LGBTQ community.

As good as any Yankees team has ever looked.
Instagram: @milb

While the S.I. Yankees’ home is part of New York City, it won’t ever be confused with Chelsea or Brooklyn. In fact, if you ever hear a headline out of New York like “Congressman threatens to throw reporter off balcony,” there’s a 100 percent chance he represents Staten Island. True story.

So when that borough’s only professional baseball team openly embraced its LGBTQ fanbase, it was a big deal. It was also exactly what former MiLB Specialist for Diversity and Inclusion Ben Pereira described about Pride Nights on the Outsports podcast 3 Strikes, You’re Out last spring:

“It was some of the more conservative [cities]... that actually did better. And that’s because in those markets, the community might not always feel seen. It might not always have those opportunities where they can go out and celebrate being their authentic selves.”

That applies to Staten Island just as much as it applies to Tulsa or Missoula, Mo. In fact, Staten Island was quicker to label its LGBTQ celebration a “Pride Night” than the big league Yankees were.

Now Staten Island ownership is making another statement: you can’t eliminate our team without a fight. Hopefully, it’s one that many other minor league teams will make as well.