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The Obvious Problems with Tampa Bay Rays Players Refusing to Wear the Pride Rainbow

A few players on the Tampa Bay Rays refused to wear the Pride Rainbow on their jerseys, showing just how prevalent bigotry still is.

The Tampa Bay Rays held their team’s annual Pride Night on Saturday. Many of the players wore a rainbow on their uniforms to signify that LGBTQ+ people are welcome at the ballpark and in baseball. Unfortunately, a few players refused to wear the rainbow patch. This also meant they refused to show support for a community that often feels unwelcome. These players cited their reasons for doing this as religious objections to homosexuality. We're going there, folks. Religion may be a sensitive subject, but it's 2022 and we're going to have to address the elephant in the room—bigotry.

Religion and Using It As A Way To Hate

The Players who refused to wear the patches are Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson. They were all still allowed to suit up, and two of them played in the game. Jason Adam had some things to say about their choices after the game. 

"A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision. 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. 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."

First of all, Jesus never said a word about encouraging heterosexual males to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. In the quote, Adam contorts his words into a toxic pretzel that contradicts itself. If these players truly want "them to feel safe and welcome here" then you wear the hat. Putting on a pride hat doesn't encourage Adam to commit adultery. This is a cop-out from saying what these players really want to say—that they don't accept the LGBTQ community. 

Misrepresenting The Religion They Claim To Be Devoted To

Save me your bible quotes and dogmatic inaccuracies, I am married to someone who has an MDiv and knows more than most on the subject. I also refuse to stand on the side of the oppressor, which is what these players have ultimately chosen to do. The universally understood message of Jesus of Nazareth and the foundations he left behind represents valuing everyone, not being judgmental, and loving our neighbors. By denying the rainbow flag, you are actively saying you do not value that community and that they are not welcome. Referring to being gay as a "lifestyle" is an old toxic belief that doesn't hold any water. Being gay is not a lifestyle or a choice. Being a judgmental pharisee is a choice.

Blame To Go Around

If a player wanted to opt out of wearing the patriotic flags for the Fourth of July, I imagine the team would force them to. If they still refused, they may be compelled to sit out the game. If the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to take Pride Night seriously, they should have told these players to stay home. I can't imagine a lot of places of employment would allow an employee to be out of uniform. The Tampa Bay Rays could and should have handled this better. The team cannot silence the players for giving their (albeit hateful and preposterous) reasons for opting out, but they could have taken away that choice. The players are employees of the Rays and are bound by their employer's rules. 

Last Thoughts

Statistically speaking, there is a high likelihood that every MLB team has a player who is gay. Even if there isn't, why are we still living in a society that promotes tolerance and inclusivity, when we aren't willing to live by that? The precedent set by the Tampa Bay Rays by allowing players to opt out of this choice is an ugly one, and I fear it will lead to worse results down the road. We should be welcoming of everyone. Homophobia has no place here.