The Tampa Bay Rays want to mix propaganda with baseball. Like many professional teams, the Rays recently demanded their fans back gun control. “This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes,” the MLB team’s Twitter account intoned melodramatically.
But the worst from the Rays was yet to come. For the team’s 16th annual Pride Night, players adorned a “Pride” patch to their jerseys and wore the team’s logo in Pride colors. And this wasn’t the standard rainbow flag of the ancient past (i.e., five years ago). This was the new, even more woke pride flag that includes trans and racial solidarity colors. Controversy didn’t arise over the players wearing a political symbol on their jerseys–it arose over at least five players choosing not to wear them. The five dissident pitchers—Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson—respectfully said the symbol violated their religious beliefs.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Adam speaking for his fellow refusants, said in a statement to the press. “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. 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, 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 of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
He added: “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. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
This was hardly an extreme statement. Adam simply said the symbol didn’t align with his faith and he chose not to go along with it. America allows for religious exemptions and many devout Christians would agree with his reasoning. In fact, most Americans pre-Obergefell would probably agree with his reasoning. But the players’ refusal, and their reasoning, was widely condemned in the press.
The New York Times argued the recusants show baseball has “more work to do.” “[B]y allowing the players to opt out of the promotion—and to use the platform to endorse an opposite viewpoint—the Rays undercut the message of inclusion they were trying to send. Words like ‘lifestyle’ and ‘behavior’ are widely known tropes often interpreted as a polite cover for condemning gay culture,” wrote Times’ baseball reporter Tyler Kepner. He quotes another journalist who says Adam’s reasoning is nothing more than a “justification for discrimination against people for the way they were born” and an “indictment” of the pitcher’s faith. The Times implied the dissidents should have been punished for refusing to go along with the rest of the team.
ESPN host Sarah Spain was more explicit in her condemnation. “That religious exemption BS is used in sports and otherwise also allows for people to be denied health care, jobs, apartments, children, prescriptions, all sorts of rights,” she said in an on-air rant. “We have to stop tiptoeing around it because we’re trying to protect people who are trying to be bigoted from asking for them to be exempt from it, when the very people that they are bigoted against are suffering the consequences you say trying to be bigoted.”
All of this vitriol is over a standard Christian response to the Pride flag. You would almost think Miss Spain has never interacted with any Christians in her life. The media treats the Rays pitchers as if they’re strange freaks from another planet. How could anyone not support Pride in the year 2022??
This story illustrates how much America has changed over just a few short years. The old Pride flag is no longer inclusive enough and it’s replaced by a more progressive version. If a baseball team wore pride colors a few years ago, it would’ve been treated as a Rosa Parks moment by the press. Now the team is denounced because management didn’t force every single player to display the Pride flag. Gay marriage was still illegal in the Rays’ home state in 2014. It seems sports writers won’t be happy until the law requires every baseball player to wear Pride colors. The demand is no longer for mere tolerance—it’s for conformity. Those who don’t conform pay a price.
The Rays’ support for gun control and Pride displays should persuade conservatives to stop viewing pro sports as a form of escapism. Pro sports are now just another avenue for spreading leftist propaganda to the masses. The NFL has promoted Black Lives Matter messaging for the past two years. The NBA, MLB, and other leagues did the same in 2020. MLB withdrew its All-Star Game from Georgia last year simply because the state passed an election reform bill the Left didn’t like. Now pro teams are browbeating fans with gun control and LGBT propaganda.
It’s time Republican lawmakers push back against this. Every pro team relies on the generosity of local and state governments. They love getting nice perks courtesy of the taxpayer, from state-of-the-art stadiums to magnanimous tax breaks. There’s no reason for Republicans to continue giving away perks to propaganda vehicles. It’s time to cut off the gravy train.
At least one Republican gets this. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a measure to give the Rays $35 million in state money to build a new training facility. The governor found the team’s open support of gun control and donations to left-wing groups too much to stomach. He declared it was “inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation.” That’s the exact right message the GOP should send to pro sports teams.
If teams want their state-funded goodies, get rid of the political sermons.