GLAAD’s Spirit Day has become an annual opportunity for people across North America to show their support for LGBTQ youth. Many sports teams and leagues have used it as an opportunity to do just that, with the NFL, NBA and WNBA joining the campaign as community sponsors.
Major League Baseball participated as well, with an MLB-produced support video and all 30 MLB teams turning their Twitter avatars purple and tweeting out supportive messages urging their fans to be part of the movement to stop bullying.
That’s great to see.
Yet it was what two teams didn’t say — and one that took a while — that ended up speaking volumes.
The Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves stuck out from the rest of their brethren by omitting any mention of the LGBTQ community in their social-media messaging for Spirit Day, thus diluting the impact of associating themselves with Spirit Day — designed to support LGBTQ youth — in the first place.
In lieu of supporting LGBTQ kids, the Rangers opted for the most generic message possible:
Join us in taking a stand against bullying and in support of inclusion. #SpiritDay pic.twitter.com/mfJoEHvwA6— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) October 21, 2021
Based on the text they chose, it appears the Rangers were in favor of the concept of inclusion, but not strongly enough to tell you specifically who they support including on a day created to show solidarity with LGBTQ young people.
At first, their in-state rival Houston Astros also did not distinguish themselves with their Spirit Day message, saying the same thing but in reverse order:
Today is #SpiritDay— Houston Astros (@astros) October 21, 2021
Join the #Astros and @MLB in supporting inclusion and taking a stand against bullying: https://t.co/zBqXCzpKA1 pic.twitter.com/lqrZswnosz
After initially stopping short of mentioning the LGBTQ community by name, the Astros expressed themselves better in a later tweet after being called out:
The #Astros are committed to make baseball for everyone, including LGBTQ+ youth. Take a stand against bullying and learn how you can participate at https://t.co/zBqXCz89It.#SpiritDay pic.twitter.com/4f06YBVOK7— Houston Astros (@astros) October 21, 2021
Meanwhile in Georgia, the Braves waited until the start of NLCS Game 5 to issue their anodyne sentiments:
Today is #SpiritDay— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 21, 2021
The #Braves join @MLB in taking a stand against bullying: https://t.co/0Q2Uo0WbU9 pic.twitter.com/i4C5PSUoDh
Atlanta couldn’t even be bothered to say that they favor inclusion, let alone mention the LGBTQ community. Perhaps their pro-inclusiveness message got drowned out by the sound of the Tomahawk Chop.
While messages endorsing inclusion and speaking out against bullying are undeniably good things, they quickly turn perfunctory if a team can’t even bring itself to mention the letters LGBTQ.
Instead, what such an omission implies is that the Rangers and Braves fear offending the very worst elements of their fanbase. And losing those potential ticket buyers means more to them than anything they would gain by uplifting their LGBTQ fans.
In other words, they let internet bullies win without even putting up a fight.
Rangers beat writer Alex Plinck, who published his coming out story this past Opening Day, summed up the hurt feelings elicited by these lukewarm half-gestures in his Medium blog:
“For me as a kid, baseball was what my passion was. It was what I clung to and what I devoted my time to. I grew up rooting for the Texas Rangers, and I still have a boatload of Rangers gear stowed away, whether in storage, my closet, or placed somewhere in my apartment.
“Unfortunately, the past decade has taught me that some high-up individual in the organization doesn’t view the LGBTQIA+ community as an asset worth mentioning or caring about. Sure, inclusive statements are published, but it’s about showing rather than telling. It creates a dark cloud among the entire organization. It’s a tired act that the LGBTQIA+ community is getting sick of.”
Contrast this with the message sent by a team like the St. Louis Cardinals. They also play in a market that’s not traditionally associated with being at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion but this didn’t stop them from unequivocally stating who their Spirit Day message was for:
Bullying has no place in our society.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 21, 2021
Join us in taking a stand against bullying and supporting LGBTQ+ youth.
Learn more: https://t.co/0ZH4dpccEp pic.twitter.com/BrtvYi4h0g
Our year-round support for the LGBTQ+ community includes a partnership with the St. Louis Metro Trans Umbrella Group.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 21, 2021
MTUG provides necessary resources for the St. Louis region // https://t.co/34ZvKI3cS8
In response, the Cardinals received some vicious responses from bigoted voices in their fanbase. But that only served to underscore their Spirit Day message: they were willing to offend the very worst bottom-feeders on the internet if that meant defending the LGBTQ community and their LGBTQ fanbase.
They faced the same choice as the Rangers, Astros, and Braves but they did the right thing. That’s what standing up to bullies actually looks like.
And it turns out that’s what Spirit Day should be all about.