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Biblical conviction on the baseball mound

Tampa Bay Rays pitchers draw backlash for declining to wear LGBT-themed uniforms


Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brooks Raley throws a pitch in a June 4 game against the Chicago White Sox. Associated Press/Photo by Chris O'Meara

Biblical conviction on the baseball mound

Five pitchers for baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays recently became targets of LGBT activists for refusing to participate in their team’s Pride celebration due to their Christian faith. Observers might wonder: As professional sports teams attempt to appease LGBT fans, how much longer will they allow their Christian players to engage in respectful dissent?

The Rays flap began when the team issued players caps featuring a rainbow-colored version of the team’s “TB” logo along with patches with a rainbow version of the club’s sunburst emblem. The Pride-themed gear was intended for the Rays’ June 4 Pride Night game against the Chicago White Sox, although Rays executives left it up to individual players to choose whether to wear it.

Concerned about communicating a message that conflicted with Biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality, the five pitchers—Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson—and some other players opted not to wear the patches. They also wore their regular game-day hats, which have a white “TB” logo. (Two of the pitchers, Raley and Beeks, appeared in the Pride Night game, which Tampa Bay lost 3-2.)

The players’ decision caused no friction in their team’s clubhouse, according to Rays manager Kevin Cash—though there was “a lot of conversation and valuing the different perspectives,” he said. And Adam, the players’ appointed spokesman, tried to make clear that he and his teammates intended no disrespect to Tampa Bay’s LGBT fans.

“Ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcomed and loved here,” Adam said when questioned by the media. “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.”

The pitcher was quick to point out that the Bible “encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”

Though Adam refrained from using words like “sin” and extended love to those with whom he and the other pitchers disagree, that wasn’t enough to placate some prominent individuals in the sports world.

“Pride is about inclusion,” ESPN commentator Sarah Spain said on Around the Horn, a show on which she and other commentators sound off on hot-button sports topics. “So you don’t love them and you don’t welcome them if you’re not willing to wear the patch.”

Spain also didn’t hold back in tossing out the “B” word—“bigot”—in reference to the Rays pitchers: “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 they are bigoted against are suffering the consequences.”

Bryan Ruby, who became the first active professional baseball player to come out as gay as a member of the now-independent Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes last season, echoed Spain’s sentiments.

“Discrimination has a voice, and you saw it in Tampa,” said Ruby, now a community adviser for Music City Baseball, an organization that seeks to bring a Major League Baseball expansion team to Nashville.

The Rays pitchers are the latest professional athletes to come under fire for refusing to participate in LGBT celebrations: Just last month, Idrissa Gueye, a Muslim midfielder for the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, drew the ire of fans when he declined to participate in a match in which he would have had to wear a rainbow-themed jersey. And in 2017, North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels (née Hinkle) declined a call-up to the U.S. women’s national team for the same reason.


Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD Magazine. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Syracuse University School of Journalism, and he has been a sports reporter for 25 years. He is also a licensed attorney. Ray resides with his wife, Pauline, and daughter in Keizer, Ore.

@RayHacke43

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