It’s Pride Month, and many organizations, including professional sports teams, take this opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. However, for the Tampa Bay Rays, not all players participated in their Pride celebration.
During Saturday’s “Pride Night” in Tampa, some Rays players opted not to sport a rainbow-colored logo patch on their sleeve and a rainbow-colored "TB" on their hat after being given the choice, rather than collectively wearing them as a team.
The decision was addressed by Rays manager Kevin Cash, who said constructive conversations over the past few weeks led to the team’s decision. He emphasized how the Rays have different perspectives and inviting that honesty to the field is what they chose to do.
"First and foremost, I think the organization has done a really good thing to have Pride Nights supporting our gay community to come out and have a nice night at the ballpark,” said Cash. “Our players have had those conversations and we want to support our players that choose to wear or choose not to wear to the best of our capabilities."
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the players who decided to wear the team's standard hat and remove the jersey patch were pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson. Adam called it a “faith-based decision” for many of the athletes:
“Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, 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…
“It's not judgmental. It's not looking down. It's just what we believe the lifestyle he's encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold,” added Adam. “But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here."
That explanation drew criticism from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty and former big leaguer Preston Wilson.
And though these opinions from some Rays players divided the team’s choice to wear the rainbow-colored logos, this did not deter from the intentions of “Pride Night,” which is and has always been to urge inclusivity between the LGBTQ+ community and major league sports.
Mini LGBTQ+ flags were distributed to fans and families, and the turnout of “Pride Night” was almost 3,000 fans more than the Rays’ usual turnout.
“It’s one of those things, my parents taught me to love everyone as they are, go live your life, whatever your preferences are, go be you,” said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. “I can’t speak for everyone who’s in here, obviously, but this is a family-friendly environment here at a big league ballfield.”