Say their names.
Satchel Paige. Josh Gibson. “Cool Papa” Bell. Rube Foster. Willard Jesse “Home Run” Brown. Elmer Carter. Oscar Charleston. Buck Leonard. Monte Irvin. “Smokey Joe” Williams. Ernie Banks. Hank Aaron. Willie Mays. Jackie Robinson.
At least four of those names will certainly ring a bell as they are among the all-time greats of Major League Baseball.
But today is a day to know them all, or at least more than four. Today marks the 100th year anniversary of the founding of baseball’s Negro League.
And as it falls on the penultimate day of Pride Month, I ask you to extend the consideration white LGBTQ people like me are finally giving to the Black and Brown members of our community and to the people of color who were among our movement’s founders. If you believe Black Lives Matter, and they do, then all Black Lives Matter, including these baseball pioneers.
There is no Pride without those who are Black and Brown, and the truth is that baseball would not exist as we know it today without the Negro League.
Were there gay Negro League players? None that we know of who were out. There was a player named Herbert Wimble Gay, who played for Chicago, Birmingham and Baltimore, but that’s just a coincidence. Surely, somewhere within the pantheon of Negro League athletes, one player was likely closeted, but we may never know. And it doesn’t really matter.
Today, say their names. Follow the hashtag #TipYourCap2020 and the account @TipYourCap2020 to see the famous names paying tribute to the Negro League players and personnel who made history a hundred years ago, and beyond.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one must be worth at least a thousand retweets. A tip of the cap to the Negro Leagues from ... do we even need to say his name? The incomparable Michael Jordan. #TipYourCap2020 pic.twitter.com/nMDzTT3Fi6— TipYourCap2020 (@TipYourCap2020) June 28, 2020
Four former presidents joined in as well.
“I’ve been a baseball fan all of my life, and the Negro Leagues are an important part of the sport’s history. ... I tip my cap to the pioneers who showed the world that black players belong in America’s game.” -- President Jimmy Carter. #tipyourcap2020 pic.twitter.com/2yaG84WBH4— TipYourCap2020 (@TipYourCap2020) June 29, 2020
Wow wow wow, thank you @TODAYshow for this amazing tribute page and the wonderful salute to the Negro Leagues on the show. #tipyourcap2020 https://t.co/qDDZEzClsP— TipYourCap2020 (@TipYourCap2020) June 29, 2020
One more thing, about “Say their names:” this is a phrase we in the transgender community use to remember those who are murdered for being who they are, and to honor those whose lives end in suicide when oppression, rejection and hard times prove unbearable.
I don’t use it here to disrespect anyone, nor to co-opt this important message about our lost sisters and brothers.
But there can be no denying the men whose names are shown above, and many more, certainly experienced hard times, oppression and rejection. Their struggle for being who they are predates our fight for our rights, and surpasses it in terms of centuries of discrimination and enslavement.
We cannot deny that our entire society was built upon the determination that some human beings were “less than” those in the majority, on account of their race, and that our society and institutions still function today as a systemic apparatus of inequality. We who are LGBTQ can relate, even if it’s not even close to that level of injustice. Those who are Black and Brown and LGBTQ know the struggle most of all; We who are not would do well to fight together for equality.
#TipYourCap today, to show you understand #BlackLivesMatter in sports and in all things.
Or don’t. Then you’ll be part of the problem instead of the solution.