Some homophobic New England Patriots fans hiding behind screen names mocked the team on Twitter for displaying the Pride flag at Gillette Stadium to kick off Pride Month.
And the Patriots clapped back.
Like many pro sports teams, the Patriots shared Pride symbolism on social media Wednesday. Once viewed as risky territory, Pride celebrations are now commonplace across sports.
Nearly every MLB team is holding some sort of Pride Night this month alone. All 12 WNBA teams are celebrating Pride, along with the bulk of MLS clubs.
The NFL has turned its iconic shield rainbow, pink and light blue for the second straight year.
While there’s rightful skepticism about #brands that suddenly wash themselves in rainbow colors during June, there is meaning behind symbols of inclusion — especially in sports. Historically, sports have been exclusionary towards LGBTQ people.
There’s power in seeing iconic franchises embrace LGBTQ fans.
The Patriots have made championing LGBTQ rights a pillar of their dynasty, from sponsoring Gay Bowl to supporting same-sex marriage from the start. New England was the only NFL club to sign an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage in 2015.
Last fall, owner Robert Kraft showed up to Boston’s LGBTQ flag football league’s opening day.
But not every Patriots fan is pleased with their favorite team’s sterling track record in supporting inclusivity. When the Patriots tweeted out their most recent Pride picture, they encountered some blowback from an array of hateful jerks.
They quickly let people know that spouting bigotry is not the Patriot Way.
Our comment section is monitored and there is no room for hate.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) June 2, 2022
Even though Boston is one of the most inclusive places in the country — take it from me, a lifelong and flaming gay resident — our beloved teams still get trolled for acknowledging the LGBTQ community.
The comments about the Bruins temporarily changing their Facebook logo rainbow are a dumpster fire, and the Red Sox have faced criticism from fans who want a “straight night.”
(Honey, that’s every night of the season. Have you seen all of those droopy cargo shorts in the grandstands?)
The homophobes who responded to the Patriots’ tweet were full of the predictable lines.
Ahh so the Patriots are against freedom of speech then. Good to know— Ya Filthy Animal (@GingersUnite4) June 2, 2022
New England Patriots lost a fan. I'm done with them. https://t.co/Psb558Gfdc— Akon Fenty (@AkonFenty2) June 2, 2022
When do you kick off straight month— Tim Boda (@TherealTimBoda) June 2, 2022
Stick to football.— Rick Schneider (@BeerManBrewview) June 2, 2022
Stay out of social justice and concentrate on football.— Kim Pennington (@KMark0917) June 2, 2022
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The Patriots are not the only pro sports team that riles up the anti-gay crowd when they acknowledge Pride Month. Sadly, the phenomenon is ubiquitous. They even attack the NFL.
The Colorado Avalanche deserve kudos for picking off the trolls one-by-one.
What is gross?— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 1, 2022
We just see fun wallpapers for your phone that represent a historically marginalized group!
There is no room for hate.— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 1, 2022
Spread the love.
It’s worth noting there are many positive remarks in the comment threads, too. There is no shortage of sports fans who are LGBTQ allies.
Social media also caters towards outrage and negativity. When it comes to the prominence of anti-LGBTQ comments, there is a selection bias at play.
But still, there are real people behind those accounts. And the Patriots let them know their hatred won’t be tolerated — fan or not.
That’s a championship kind of stand.