After telegraphing their decision for what felt like as many years as it’s been since they’ve won a playoff series, the Oakland A’s announced that their intentions to move to Las Vegas.
While the move is not finalized and is contingent on the team securing funding for a new ballpark in Sin City, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao immediately cut off all further negotiations with the Athletics. “It is clear to me that the A’s have no intention of staying in Oakland,” she remarked.
Should the A’s decamp, they’ll be leaving behind a group of some of the most loyal and fun fans in baseball and a heritage that includes four World Series titles in Oakland as well as all-time legends like Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, and Dennis Eckersley. All in favor of finding out what happens when a team headlined by names like Shea Langeliers tries to outdraw Adele.
Spoiler alert: it’ll be the attendance version of what’s currently happening to the 3-16 A’s on the field.
They would also be abandoning the birthplace of Glenn Burke, who played for the Athletics at the end of his career in 1978-79. If they value their franchise’s place in baseball and LGBTQ sports history at all, the A’s need to do everything in their power to keep Burke’s legacy alive — and this would still be necessary if they end up leaving town.
And this especially includes continuing the tradition of Glenn Burke Pride Night.
Renaming their Pride celebration in honor of Burke in 2021 was one of the few fan-friendly and positive decisions that Athletics ownership has made over the past decade.
The honor was also an attempt to make up for the horrific treatment Burke received in Oakland during his playing days from homophobic fans and bigoted manager Billy Martin. It turned out to be successful because unlike A’s ownership’s negotiations with the city of Oakland, it was done in good faith.
Burke was a gay player who refused to hide his sexuality from teammates during the 1970s, and it’s vitally important that his story gets passed down from generation to generation and his status as one of MLB’s barrier-breakers continues to be honored.
In order to make sure that his name stays relevant, the two teams he played for have to lead the way for the rest of the sport. The Dodgers recently stepped up and showed that they’re willing to do so by reestablishing a relationship with Burke’s family during their 2022 Pride Night.
Now it’s time for the A’s to do the same — even if they’re no longer playing in Burke’s hometown.
Throughout baseball history, relocated teams have had a checkered relationship with acknowledging players and history from their former home cities.
On the plus side, after their respective moves, the Dodgers, Giants and Braves continued to celebrate important figures from their previous incarnations. Luminaries like Jackie Robinson, Christy Mathewson, and Warren Spahn were honored at their new homes despite never having played there and continue to be celebrated today.
Meanwhile, other teams like the Twins and Orioles don’t acknowledge the players from their previous home cities at all.
While Burke didn’t have a Hall of Fame career, his role as an LGBTQ barrier-breaker is too important to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
You’d like to hope that A’s ownership understands that. But given that they’ve operated their team under the philosophy of “What if Major League was about Rachel Phelps’ plan working exactly the way she wanted,” I have my doubts.
Should it come to pass, the move to Vegas will be a slap in the face to every baseball fan in Oakland. To double down and betray the trust of every LGBTQ sports fan on top of that indignity would be unendurable.
In other words: the exact same feeling as watching the current team that A’s ownership put together.