As anyone who’s watched the ninth inning of a Chicago White Sox game can verify, Liam Hendriks has no problem letting everybody know what’s on his mind. Especially when his thoughts are four letters long.
Off the field, Hendriks is every bit as expressive and vocal in support of his teammates. And as it turns out, he’s got Team LGBTQ’s back too.
In an interview with The Athletic’s James Fegan, the All Star closer opened up at length about his support for our community. Perhaps the most prominent revelation was how LGBTQ Pride factored into his contract negotiations with the Sox…
“It wasn’t a demand. It was a simple question of, ‘Do you guys have a Pride Night?’” Hendriks explained, “And if you don’t, that will be something that we need to look into that working out, making sure that we can handle it, because I don’t want to go necessarily to a team that doesn’t do it.”
For the record, Hendriks is one of the highest paid relievers in baseball, signing a three year, $54 million contract in 2021 with a club option for an additional $15 million in the fourth year. But even though he was assured of making an impressive salary, Hendriks didn’t want to sign until he was assured that LGBTQ fans would be welcome at White Sox games.
That is the very definition of standing up for our community. And in the wake of pitcher Jason Adam’s homophobic comments and several Rays teammates pulling rainbow logos off their uniforms, it feels like Hendriks just earned his most important save of the year.
Fortunately for South Siders, the Sox had been holding annual Pride Nights since 2018. Satisfied upon hearing that, Hendriks joined the Pale Hose and immediately became the face of the team’s LGBTQ community relations, requesting to personally raise the Sox Pride flag at Guaranteed Rate Field in uniform and a Howard Brown Health hoodie—a tribute to Chicago’s longstanding LGBTQ affirming medical establishment.
Hendriks elaborated on what it meant for him to raise the rainbow flag and, in so doing, provided a meaningful meditation on the importance of being an ally:
“It’s something that I’ve believed in. The biggest thing is making sure that hopefully it starts more of a trend of other people being willing to do it. And then the more people that are willing to do it, the more people are willing to come out publicly and say, ‘I’m fine with this.’ And I’m hoping it strengthens the resolve of those people who may be on the fence about coming out, that may be on the fence of telling family, friends, peers, or teammates or anything like that and fully embrace that.”
It’s clear that Hendriks knows the impact of his actions. His inclusion of “teammates” indicates that he wants to go beyond his clubhouse and do what he can to make all of baseball more open and welcoming for LGBTQ players.
As a Chicagoan, I should add that it’s especially important to see such a prominent ally starring for the White Sox. For years, Sox fans were notorious for a vocal and ugly strain of homophobia mostly directed at Cub fans, summed up in a popular t-shirt reading “Wrigley Field: World’s Largest Gay Bar.”
Hendriks becoming a face of White Sox Pride is the best example yet of how times have changed. Furthermore, it sends a message that any fans spewing that kind of bile will have to answer to their team’s closer—something that he has already dealt with.
“I raised the Pride flag on Pride Night here last year,” he recalled, “and some of the DMs and comments I got were just horrendous. I can only imagine someone doing it and actually having to go through it themselves with already feeling slightly ostracized in a clubhouse where you don’t know where people’s allegiances lie. That’s a scary thought and it’s a scary world.”
Just to be clear, the fans who DM’d Hendriks with homophobic abuse made the conscious decision to pick a fight with this guy…
That might have been the most regrettable decision by a South Sider since Robin Ventura realized he was charging the mound to get to Nolan Ryan.
All of this goes to show that Hendriks has put a lot of thought into using his platform to uplift the LGBTQ community in baseball. In so doing, it feels like he’s on his way to becoming the eventual successor to Sean Doolittle as baseball’s most prominent ally.
That’s worthy of a Hendriks celebration. Just make sure to put it on seven second delay.