Several Tampa Bay Rays baseball players declined to wear customized uniforms worn by their teammates for the team's annual LGBT pride night Saturday, citing the celebration of LGBT activism as a conflict with their Christian faith.
The Rays held an LGBT pride night on Saturday during the team’s home game against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field. The night is one of several events hosted by MLB teams during the month recognized by LGBT activists as “pride month.”
As advertised on the Tampa Pride website, $5 from every $10 ticket sale for Saturday’s game requested with the promo code PRIDE4 was donated to the LGBT advocacy organization. Those purchasing a $30 ticket had the opportunity to receive a Rays pride hat, with a value of up to $80. MLB.com reported that “the Rays gave away miniature pride flags to fans before the game.”
The Rays announced on Twitter Saturday that the team’s players would “wear our pride on our sleeves,” sharing pictures of Rays uniforms with a rainbow-colored sunburst on their sleeves and baseball caps with the Tampa Bay Rays logo emblazoned with the rainbow colors.
While most players wore the uniforms, several team members declined to don the customized clothing and opted to wear their standard uniforms, alleging LGBT activism conflicted with the tenets of their Christian faith.
One of the dissenting players, pitcher Jason Adam, elaborated in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, a faith-based decision,” he said.
“It’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is [for] 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 the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
Adam defended his stance as “not judgmental” and “not looking down." He stressed that “we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.” The Times identified the other players who declined to wear the Pride-themed uniforms as pitchers Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.
In a statement to local news outlet WFLA, Thompson asserted that he and his four teammates “spent a couple of weeks in prayer and a deep dive into Scripture on the subject at hand to come to the decision that we did.”
Thompson also insisted that “the entire organization from top to bottom is completely unified in both our love for the LGBTQ+ community and also our respect for each other’s opinions, views, and values.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash agreed that the team “valu[es] the different perspectives inside the clubhouse” and “really appreciate[s] the community that we’re trying to support here.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, praised the Rays players who refused to wear the LGBT-endorsing clothing.
"I appreciate these Tampa Bay Rays players who said no to endorsing and celebrating sin during Saturday night’s game," he wrote in a Facebook post Monday. "Followers of Jesus Christ must love everyone, but also stand with the truth of God’s Word and share that truth with a lost and dying world."
Last week, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $35 million in funding for a new “Sports Training and Youth Tournament Complex” in Pasco County that would be used as a spring training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays after the team posted a series of Twitter threads advocating for gun control following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Throughout the Twitter threads, the MLB team cited statistics from the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety and announced that it had donated $50,000 to the organization. DeSantis defended his veto of the proposed project in a press conference last week.
“I don’t support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports stadiums, period.”
“Companies are free to engage or not engage in whatever discourse they want, but clearly, it’s inappropriate to be doing tax dollars for [a] professional sports stadium and it’s also inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation,” he added.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org