The New York Yankees, the only team in Major League Baseball without a dedicated LGBTQ Pride night, announced this week they will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots next season in a series of special events.
Professional sports doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to the LGBTQ community in general, but baseball has always lagged: To date, no major league player has come out of the closet while still playing. But the league has made efforts to be more inclusive — adding out ex-catcher Billy Bean as its inclusion officer and, this year, joining the New York City Pride March for the first time. (Retired umpire Dale Scott road on the float.)
Yankee Stadium largely avoids the theme nights associated with baseball, particularly ones with cultural or ethnic ties. But last month when the Los Angeles Angels announced plans for a Pride night at Angels Stadium next season, it made the Yanks the only MLB team without one.
“The anniversary of Stonewall every year is an emotional and seminal event for LGBT people — not just for those in New York City but around the world,” openly gay city council member Corey Johnson told The New York Times. “To have an event in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium is a very special moment and, for me, as a former athlete, I’m going to be really proud to be there.”
But by tying it into Stonewall, the New York Yankees may be avoiding having to commit to an annual event.
“Stonewall is a perfect anniversary to do something special to make up for the fact that they were going to be the last team to hold a pride event,” OutSports co-founder Jim Buzinski told the Times. “It’s a good thing. I just hope it’s not a one-off. ‘Well, we did Stonewall at 50 years.’ The big question is, what are they going to do in 2020?”
The Mets resumed their Pride Night in 2016 and, at this year’s game, same-sex couples were shown on the Kiss-Cam.
On the other side of the country, more than 8,000 LGBT fans and allies attended Pride night at L.A.’s Dodger Stadium this year. The team also donates to The Trevor Project and offers inclusive programs throughout the year. Erik Braverman, the Dodgers’ senior VP for marketing and one of the highest ranking out people in MLB, says any effort has to be authentic.
“You can’t pander to the community and put it on the website saying there’s a ticket package and rainbow item. You have to practice what you preach — especially in New York and L.A. I think you have to lead by example.”