The New York Knicks held their latest annual LGBTQ Pride Night on Tuesday, thrilling many fans and upsetting some anti-gay trolls looking to stomp their feet about the progress of inclusion in sports.
The Knicks’ Pride Night at Madison Square Garden — one of the meccas of basketball — featured a celebration of the LGBTQ community.
One of the voices honored at the Knicks Pride Night was Lynn Schulman, a longtime stalwart of the LGBTQ community in New York City and the New York City Council member from the 29th District, representing parts of Queens.
“As a member of the NYC Council LGBTQ+ Caucus, it was a thrill to participate in Pride Night hosted by the New York Knicks,” Schulman said. “At a time when the LGBTQ community is often under attack, it is heartwarming to see a prominent sports team like the Knicks be so supportive.”
As a member of @NYCCouncil LGBTQ Caucus was thrilled to participate in PRIDE Night with .@nyknicks last night, where Melissa D’ Andrea Sullivan of @pflagnyc was honored with the Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award. At a time when the LGBTQ community is often under attack, it is… pic.twitter.com/nDRdaVbXhY— Lynn Schulman 舒曼琳 (@Lynn4NYC) January 10, 2024
PFLAG NYC Executive Director Melissa D’Andrea Sullivan, the January recipient of the Knicks’ Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award, was also honored on-court with a $10,000 check.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who helped foster ‘brave spaces’ and tried to leave each person and place I encounter in my life better than I found them,” Sullivan said in a statement.
The Knicks didn’t shy away from talking publicly about the event, sharing on X:
Proudly commemorating PRIDE Night. We’re happy to honor Melissa D’ Andrea Sullivan of @pflagnyc with the Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award. Thanks to Queens Councilwoman Lynn Schulman (@Lynn4NYC) for participating in this special recognition. pic.twitter.com/wOgjR9rYVY— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 10, 2024
The club also took to Instagram stories to talk about PFLAG, the honorees and Pride Night.
None of this stopped some misguided people from sharing their unfortunate views of sports, pro sports, the NBA, sporting events, sports fandom, the LGBTQ community, gay people and Pride.
“NBA teams having ‘Pride’ night is ridiculous,” said Texas-based syndicated radio host Joe ‘Pags’ Pagliarulo. “How did our society become a place where things completely disconnected from sexual orientation or sexual activity now pushes is and celebrates it?”
NBA teams having "Pride" night is ridiculous. How did our society become a place where things completely disconnected from sexual orientation or sexual activity now pushes is and celebrates it? If I go to an NBA game -- I'm going to watch the game. I don't want to have sexual…— Joe Pags Pagliarulo (@JoeTalkShow) January 10, 2024
When challenged, Pagliarulo made the absolutely ridiculous, completely false claim that “there’s never been anyone “unwelcomed” because of [sexual orientation] in sports.”
Imagine being this self-centered that you think your sexual orientation is something everyone has to know. And no, there's never been anyone "unwelcomed" because of it in sports. Ridiculous. Gonna pray for you. pic.twitter.com/74HCwUpvym— Joe Pags Pagliarulo (@JoeTalkShow) January 10, 2024
Another person on X — and we only highlight people with at least hundreds of followers — claimed the Knicks were taking sex “out of bedrooms” and putting it on a basketball court:
They took sex out of bedrooms and forced it onto everyone with their alternative sex style...SIN as GOD calls it.— Brenda Ward America First (@WardBrend50872) January 10, 2024
Another person made the false claim that, despite cheerleaders, promotions, Kiss Cams, contests, music, halftime acts and everything else that goes into producing an NBA game, “When people pay money to go see a game they just want to see the GAME”:
Of course they’re pushing it on him, and everyone else. When people pay money to go see a game they just want to see the GAME.— Amanda Johnson (@amyanda949) January 10, 2024
Will Pagliarulo and the rest of the anti-Pride-Night brigade be whining about other upcoming Knicks promotional nights, like “Essential Workers Night” on Jan. 30? How about “Women’s Empowerment Night” on March 8? I’m sure he’ll be hosting a protest on Eighth Avenue for “Kid’s Day” on March 23.
HBCU Night on on March 25? Celebrating Knicks legend Willis Reed? “Why aren’t they just sticking to the game?!?!!?”
Maybe one of them will start a Change.org petition to remove cheerleaders from all sporting events, given he just wants to “watch the game.”
Or rather, they’ll do none of that.
People like Pagliarulo, Clay Travis, Ben Shapiro and others really don’t care about sports teams celebrating communities or veering away from “the game” during a commercial break. They have a problem when the community being celebrated is gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans.
Thankfully, with the support of the NBA — and beyond that, MLS, NHL, MLB, NFL, WNBA, PWHL and others — Pride Nights in sports aren’t going anywhere.
The leagues and teams realize this claim about Pride Night centering, or even mentioning, sex is ridiculous. I’m married to my husband because I love him. The sex is just an added benefit.
They also realize that LGBTQ people — and particularly gay men — have felt unwelcome in sports locker rooms for decades. They want to change that.
It’s the love, the friendship, the camaraderie and the community the Knicks celebrated at Pride Night, and it’s what every pro-sports team celebrates when they share some rainbow flags and honor a lesbian who teaches math to kids.
The Knicks held their first Pride Night in 2018. They have previously participated in the New York City Pride March.
Despite some people trying to scare them and other NBA teams away from it, they’ll host another in 2025.