The Tampa Bay Rays are renowned throughout baseball for exploiting market inefficiencies to find every advantage so they can field a competitive team with a small-market payroll.
Judging by what reliever Jason Adam told the media after he and several teammates refused to wear rainbow caps and sleeve logos on Pride Night, it appears the newest Rays innovation is “What if we converted Daniel Murphy into a pitcher?”
Even though Murphy retired last year, Adam just reminded all of us that his views on the LGBTQ community are alive in at least a few major league clubhouses. Even though the vast majority of the Rays were fine wearing Pride logos on Saturday, five of their teammates physically pulled the rainbow starburst patches off their uniforms before taking the field.
After the game, they selected Adam as their spokesman to discuss their actions and his explanation was almost breathtaking in its asininity:
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Adam said. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here.”
That’ll clear it up. Good talk. After all, nothing tells LGBTQ fans “you are welcome and loved here” better than literally peeling off a rainbow logo from your uniform. Maybe Adam could make us feel even more welcome by using Anita Bryant as his entrance music.
“But when we put it on our bodies,” Adam continued, “I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like [Jesus] encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
To paraphrase comedian John Fugelsang every time he confronts someone using Christianity to excuse their homophobia, find me one passage in the Bible where Jesus condemns gay people. I’ll wait as long as you need.
In other words, at least as long as it takes for the Rays to win a World Series.
Notice how Adam tries to insist this group of players is not looking down on anybody precisely two words after referring to being gay as a “lifestyle” — as if being attracted to the people we love was no different than collecting stamps or embarking on a cross-country tour to follow 3 Doors Down.
Furthermore, speaking from personal experience, as I was going through the coming out process, I never thought I needed to ask a relief pitcher to validate my sexuality. When I first noticed I was attracted to guys, not once did I ever ask myself, “What does Rod Beck think of this?”
(For the record, all evidence points to: Rod Beck would’ve been totally cool with it.)
“It’s not judgmental,” Adam said. “It’s not looking down.”
It was exactly those things.
“It’s just that we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
Sigh. Just because Adam repeats those words doesn’t suddenly make them true. Doesn’t the Bible say something about faith without works?
It can sometimes feel lonely being an LGBTQ baseball fan and hearing endless variations of “I don’t watch sportsball” when you’re discussing your interests. One of best parts of writing about the release of MLB Pride Night schedules is that it’s heartening to see almost every team putting in an effort to make our community feel welcome. The Pride Preview is concrete evidence of how much the sport is changing for the better.
But when several players rip off their rainbow logos during Rays Pride, they become the only people we notice on the field. It’s a conscious decision that makes LGBTQ people feel that they don’t belong.
Then when Adam spews out homophobic word salad couched in smarmy fake compassion, it reinforces what so many people in the community already believe about how the sports world marginalizes and excludes them. So when I talk to other gays about being a baseball fan, it makes me wonder, “Am I weird for liking this?”
It only took a few sentences for Adam and a small group of teammates to undo everything good that was supposed to come out of Rays Pride. No matter how many times we write about how sports are progressing, a quote like that makes it harder for LGBTQ people to take a chance on baseball.
As someone who has derived so much joy from following the game, I find that very depressing. But also understandable. I still think that the vast majority of baseball welcomes our community. But Adam and the teammates he represents are a reminder of why we’ve got to keep pushing to make those overtures of welcome more genuine.