The Tampa Bay Rays celebrated their 16th annual “Pride Night” during Saturday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, but the event did not come without controversy.
A small group of players chose not to wear custom rainbow-colored Pride logos on their hats and sleeves.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, although a majority of the team donned the rainbow-colored “TB” on their hats and the Rays sunburst logo on their right sleeve, pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson did not participate, instead vying for the standard Rays hat. Players were given the option to wear the unique logos, per the report.
The Rays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants are the only three teams in the MLB that have created Pride-inspired uniforms, but there was no refusal among any Dodger or Giant to wear the rainbow symbols.
“A Faith-Based Decision”
Adam said his faith played a role in his decision to not wear the uniform. Although the Rays reliever said that members of the LGBTQ+ community are welcomed within the organization, the lifestyle is not supported by his religious beliefs.
According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, Adam said, “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.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said that players had positive conversations in the locker room about the issue. “I think what it has created is, like, what you’ve heard — a lot of conversation and valuing the different perspectives inside the clubhouse,” Cash said.
Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured player on the club, did not belittle his teammates’ choice, but spoke abundantly about his view of equality.
“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,” the three-time Gold Glove winner said.
Tampa’s LGBTQ+ Community Efforts
Florida is no stranger to LGBTQ debate. The state’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, which has been labeled as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in late-March. The bill prevents public school students in kindergarten through the third grade from learning about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Rays are one of the foremost leaders in supporting LGBTQ+ rights in all of baseball. They were the first professional sports team to sign a Supreme Court amicus brief that supported same-sex marriage.
For this year’s Pride Night, the Rays provided fans with miniature Pride flags and gave Metro Inclusive Health, a non-profit organization that provides diverse members of the Tampa Bay community with comprehensive medical services, a $20,000 check. Major Markus Hughes, the St. Petersburg Police Department’s LGBTQ+ liaison, threw out the first pitch for the game.