June is Pride Month, and the Tampa Bay Rays are showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community by hosting Pride Night at Tropicana Field, which features players wearing special hats with rainbow logos and a sticker on the sleeve in the field. But several Rays players decided not to wear pride support apparel on Saturday, which was Pride Night at Tropicana Field.
According to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays made their Pride Night uniforms optional, allowing players to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to wear the rainbow hat and don the rainbow sticker. on their sleeves. The majority of the team appeared to participate, but a group of players opted to wear their normal uniforms and hats.
It’s unclear exactly how many players opted out of wearing the Pride decals, but Topkin reported the group included pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.
Only one player discussed the decision to retire from the uniforms: Jason Adam, who was chosen by team officials to speak on behalf of the group. Adam’s explanation focused on religion, explicitly saying the band didn’t want to “encourage” the “lifestyle” of LGBTQ+ people because of their personal religious beliefs.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, loving a faith-based decision,” Adam said via the Tampa Bay Times. “So it’s a tough decision. Because at the end of the day we’ve all said what we want is for them to know that everyone is welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our body, I think a lot of guys decided it was just a lifestyle that maybe – not that they looked down on anybody or thought differently – it’s just that maybe we didn’t want encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would refrain from this behavior, just as [Jesus] encourages me as a heterosexual man to abstain from sex outside the bounds of marriage. It’s no different.
“It’s not a judgement. It’s not looking down. It’s just how we feel about the lifestyle he encouraged us to live, for our sake, not to hold back. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.
Although it doesn’t appear that a player has been chosen by team officials to speak on behalf of the players who wore the Pride Night uniforms, Kevin Kiermaier has opened up about why he supports the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s one of those things, my parents taught me to love everyone as they are, go live your life, whatever your preferences, be yourself,” Kiermaier said. “I can’t speak for everyone here, obviously, but it’s a family environment here on a big league ballpark. … We just want everyone to feel welcome and included and cheer us on. It doesn’t matter what you think of anything.
The choice sparked “conversations”, not divisions
Topkin reported that it was important for the Rays to make the Pride Night uniform optional, although they were hoping for full participation.
The Rays’ decision to make Pride Night uniforms optional could have brought discord to the clubhouse since not everyone agreed to visibly support the LGBTQ+ community. However, according to Topkin, the players and coaches said there had been “many” conversations about the issue within the clubhouse, and it hadn’t caused any discord between the players.
When asked if the conversations had caused a “division” in the clubhouse, manager Kevin Cash said the opposite had happened: the conversations were both productive and respectful.
“I certainly hope not,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I think what that’s created is, like, what you’ve heard – lots of conversations and valuing the different perspectives inside the clubhouse, but really appreciating the community that we’re trying to support here.”