How do you screw up Pride Night? How, with billions of dollars at your disposal and thousands of people on your payroll do you screw up any night, for that matter? But especially this one. Pride Night is important.
For as long as there have been sports, the LGBT+ community has been excluded. Shunned. Ridiculed. Especially in baseball. To date, there has never been an openly gay active MLB player. Some came out after retirement, notably Glenn Burke. But how many people do you think gave up on their baseball dream at a young age because they knew they’d be an outcast due to their sexuality? Could we have had more Mike Trouts? Ken Griffey Jrs.? Dwight Goodens? We’ll never know, but odds are the sport and its fans have likely missed out on generational superstars due to institutional homophobia.
If that is ever going to change, the sport and its teams need to execute events like Pride Night correctly. Unequivocal inclusion is the message, and anything short of spotless execution is going to dilute it.
Here’s a summary of how it went down.
The Dodgers announce their Pride Night and the participating organizations. So far so good? This is where it all started going to shit. One of the organizations invited by the Dodgers was the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a charitable organization of men who dress in drag as nuns. Nobody will dispute the group’s good works, but the problem is, they openly mock Catholics. They claim not to, but they sell dildos in the shape of Jesus on the cross on their website. Read that sentence again.
This is problematic because a large part of the Dodgers fanbase is Latino, their primary religious affiliation, Catholicism. As you can imagine, there was some blowback. The Dodgers were caught off guard, not because Catholics took offense but because nobody had bothered to do any background research on any of the invited organizations. Also getting in on the blowback were people like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, an anthropomorphized pile of excrement if there ever was one.
Then the Dodgers compounded their error by… capitulating to the blowback. They uninvited the Sisters and whoa boy. If the ballclub thought the blowback to inviting the Sisters was bad, they had no idea what they were in for. Prominent California democrats condemned the team for giving in to right wing pressure. Other invited LGBT+ organizations withdrew from the event. Social media went crazy.
And if you don’t think Social media matters, well, why do you think every big league team in every big league sport has an active Twitter account. And wow, did the Twitter warriors go nuts on the Dodgers. Now, it’s true that probably 95% of the people most outraged didn’t actually care one bit what happened. They’re not really “allies.” They have likely never donated a penny to an LGBTQ+ cause, or stood up for an LGBTQ+ person being bullied. They lack the ability to care about anything other than how many likes and retweets they get, how much clout they can acquire, how much attention they can manufacture for themselves. They lack the intellectual capacity to process nuance. They’re honestly good for little. But what they can do is amplify a message. And did they ever amplify it.
Fast forward to Monday, May 22nd, the Dodgers once again flip flopped and reinvited the Sisters to Pride Night, reigniting the slobbering, flop sweating rage of the right wing bigotry machine. And probably, and less vocally, a whole lot of Catholics.
This is where the nuance comes in, and the aforementioned useless clout addicts of the Twitterverse. Not a lot of people outside of the Catholic faith are going to have a ton of sympathy for Catholics. The church has a long history of sexual scandal, pedophelia, homophobia and very public opposition to marriage equality. So when an organization engages in anti-catholic behavior, the sentiment is generally, “so what, fuck ’em.” Well, isn’t that inclusion for you.
Again, more nuance. While all of the warts on the Catholic church on that front were earned, the tides have indeed shifted. President Joe Biden is a lifelong devout Catholic, and the most pro-trans president in history. And while there remains a long way to go with the Vatican, Pope Francis has taken a publicly conciliatory tone toward homosexuality. So I maintain, you are either for inclusion and equality for all, or you’re either a piece of shit or a brainless twit who derives self worth only from online engagement.
Here is how it should have gone down.
But they didn’t.
All it would have taken is for one low level intern to do some basic research and say, “Hey Boss? They sell Jesus on the cross dildos. Is that…problematic?”
Hopefully other organizations learn from the Dodgers’ failure.