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The fair-weather Dodgers: Protests and missed opportunities

Or “The Dodgers show their true colors as to the LGBT community”

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers found new ways to sell out the LGBT community at Pride Night 2023.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

So Pride Night was last Friday and there are issues to discuss.

Amazingly, the Dodgers managed to screw up in an unforced error — again. So stop me if you have heard this one, but the Dodgers managed to run from their own Pride Night as a whole in the same way that Mookie Betts ran the bases on Friday: embarrassingly and haphazardly leading to ineptness that made no one happy.

Let me be clear, from what I have been able to tell, inside the ballpark Pride Night went fine with two notable exceptions, which we will cover. But if you were watching at home or were checking social media, you would be forgiven for asking the following question: “Wait, Pride Night was on Friday?”

A study of two managers

Before really diving in, I do need to give plaudits to Dave Roberts. One of the main criticisms from my previous essay was that the Dodgers as a whole had been relatively silent as to supporting Pride Night after deciding to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after all.

As I stated last time, the only team that does not have a Pride Night is the Texas Rangers. Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic has a banger of an essay about that fact excerpted here, which is well worth your time. And the Dodgers’ Pride Night has traditionally been the largest in all of American sports. Personally, the Dodgers’ collective silence got to the point that it begged the question of whether the Dodgers even wanted to have a Pride Night this year. But I wanted to give the team the benefit of the doubt in a mess almost entirely of their own making.

Considering the above reasoning and the relevant personnel working for the Dodgers, the silence coming out of Los Angeles had been pretty noticeable, especially when looking at what other franchises are doing. For example, the Seattle Mariners:

Nice, right? Or maybe videos are too much work, schedule conflicts, and whatnot. How about photographs, like say, the New York Mets (from the same day as their Pride Night):

Again — silence. You might be asking why does this demonstration even matter.

While the Cubs had the first Pride Night in MLB in 2001, the first outreach to the LGBT+ community was in 2000, when then-Dodgers president Bob Graziano publicly apologized to Dani Goldey and her-then-partner Meredith Kott and donated 5,000 tickets to three LGBT+ groups in the Los Angeles region.

Why was Graziano apologizing? On August 8, 2000, after pitcher Darren Dreifort hit his second home run of the day, the crowd went into delirium. As such, Goldey and Kott kissed each other. Not on the Jumbotron or anything, just amongst themselves. A couple of other “fans” saw this act, got offended, and complained to security, who then kicked Goldey and Kott out of the stadium for a “lewd” act, lest they face trespassing charges. The literal next day, Graziano drove to West Hollywood to apologize. This sequence of events was twenty-three years ago.

With the above in mind, it would have been nice for Clayton Kershaw or any Dodger really to publicly say anything to support the team’s efforts for their annual Pride Night. As Ms. Ghiroli quoted in her essay: “Sometimes doing nothing speaks louder than anything.

The Dodgers’ silence was finally broken prior to the game on Friday by Dave Roberts (paywalled).

“For me, this is an existential question for me. It’s a big, overarching kind of question in the sense that my parents raised me to love everyone. To respect everyone. Treat people the way that you would want to be treated. We’re not always going to agree on everyone’s decisions in life. That’s the way the world works. And that’s okay. I do think that we should still all be able to coexist.

“For me, it just always goes back to loving everyone, and as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a baseball team, I welcome – we welcome anyone that comes through these gates to support our ballclub.”

“People are going to have different opinions, but our culture now is in a place where we’re not coexisting and that’s what’s sad and unfortunate. I love everyone. That’s kind of where I’m at. Anyone who wants to come in here and support us and the Dodgers, I’m all in. We’re all in. That’s how I was raised.”

Giants manager Gabe Kapler also said the following around the same time:

“In San Francisco, I’m really proud of the way our organization has handled Pride Day from beginning to end,” he said. “I’m very proud to be wearing Pride colors tonight and I think a lot of our players would say the same. I’m also very excited to see how it works in L.A.; having grown up in Los Angeles, I feel like LA is an inclusive city, and I expect that in the ballpark. I was proud to wear the [Pride Day] patches last year, I’m proud to wear the patches in San Francisco and I’m proud to wear the patches here in Dodger Stadium.”

Kapler’s statement is stronger in support than Roberts, but both statements are absolutely fine. I just wish someone had said them earlier.

It is a little striking that the most supportive statements about the Dodgers Pride Night came from the opposing team. Former Dodger Joc Pederson, who admitted that he did not know much about the ongoing controversy, said the following:

“I think Pride Day is great. It’s about welcoming everyone. It’s like ‘love your neighbor,’ and everyone loves everyone. I think the LGBTQ community is awesome, and I think everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever fashion you want. Whatever makes you happy.”

Going back to the players, Kershaw stated he wasn’t against the LGBTQ+ community or Pride but he disagreed with the Dodgers’ decision to reinvite the Sisters, which prompted the timeline covered last time, saying his response was prompted by “...a group that was making fun of a religion, that I don’t agree with.”

As far as I have been able to tell, the only Dodger player to say anything about Pride Night apart from Kershaw and Blake Trienen about Pride Night was AAA reliever Jake Reed, in a lengthy Instagram post liked Justin Bruihl among others, who as a person of faith clearly struggled with the satire of the Sisters, ultimately seeking “correction” rather than condemnation.

Ah Michael, you are conflating disagreement about the Sisters with disagreement about Pride Night in general.

As I have said repeatedly, I understand the difficulty of the position that Kershaw and Reed have been placed in. I have tried extremely hard to be respectful of folks who are not comfortable with the Sisters and aspects of their satire but are still respectful of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

My disappointment with Kershaw’s interview stemmed from the sequence of events, how without additional context, it could be argued that Kershaw was bullying and both-siding an issue that had only one side and potentially opening the door for all the crazy to come in. Dealing with nuance is hard and finally wading through the comments of the last essay, you all, once again, did not disappoint.

Protesting on Dodger Stadium property on Pride Night

But you know who did not handle nuance well?

As I alluded to last time, word broke that there would be protestors rallying in Lot 13 of Dodger Stadium prior to Pride Night. Personally, it was quite disheartening to see people wish each other to “be safe” online going to Dodger Stadium for anything, much less a sponsored event in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Our own David Young reached out to see if the Dodgers had informed the media as to why the organization was okay with the “Prayerful Procession” on stadium property to no avail. Ultimately, Los Angeles Police and Dodgers security estimated that about 2,000 people were at the protest, which ultimately moved to the main gates of Dodger Stadium, blocking traffic into the stadium.

As to what this group was actually protesting, no clear answer could be found. Some protested because of the inclusion of the Sisters, some were protesting Pride Night in general, and some were protesting both. I am all for the freedom to assemble and the right to protest on public property. The First Amendment demands a lot from one to live in a free society. But that part of the law is inapplicable because we are talking about private property.

A ticket to a Dodgers game allows you a revocable license to be on the Dodgers’ property. As such, you have to follow the organization’s rules, hence why they can kick you out if you run onto the field, etc. David Young pointed this fact out too to the Dodgers to no avail. There are rules prohibiting tailgating and/or congregating on stadium property. Are the Dodgers really going to argue that their own parking lots are not stadium property?

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle put it best:

I can’t imagine all the fans who can’t get in because the gates are closed are going to be super swayed to join the protestor side. Fight LA Friday traffic to arrive early - only to find the main gate closed. And LGBTQ+ fans get the added fun of hate and bigotry directed at them.

When the away team makes a bigger deal of the home team’s Pride Night, something has gone horribly awry. And maddeningly enough, it does get worse as we now reach the climax of this night.

Sound and fury for something that took less than thirty seconds

Apparently, Pride Night 2023 existed in a pocket universe that consisted entirely of Dodger Stadium. It was not mentioned on the broadcast on SportsNetLA. It was not mentioned by the Dodgers on social media before or during the game. Photos from the early part of the day were finally posted the next day just after midnight the following day.

For all the ink spilled, for all the agita, for all the time spent (both yours and mine), all the collective gnashing of teeth ultimately came down to an interaction that was less than thirty seconds long.

J.P. Hoornstra did note that the length of acknowledgment at Dodger Stadium was typical. The length of the acknowledgment and award is not my issue.

[Editor’s note: The on-field ceremony was also over a half-hour earlier than most other such pregame ceremonies at Dodger Stadium]

To that end, multiple outlets reported that there was an increase in security at the ballpark. Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic reported that the Dodgers did not take batting practice and that the Giants were informed that they had to take batting practice earlier, with the field on lockdown prior to the Pride Night introductions.

Let me pose a riddle: If you have a Pride Night, but you celebrate it while the park is mostly, if not completely empty, and you don’t acknowledge it online (until after midnight) or on television (during the game), did you really have a Pride Night?

Considering that the stadium’s main gates were blocked, considering the stadium was mostly empty (which applies to all of the award recipients), considering no media was shared about these awards was shared online, considering the festivities were rushed for “security reasons,” what were the Dodgers trying to achieve? If anything, the Dodgers’ actions (or lack thereof) gave credence to the false narrative that the community at large had turned on Pride Night.

Claiming that Dodger Stadium was a “rainbow of love” under these circumstances misses the point. From my perspective, considering what the team did last year, it felt like the team was going through the motions and being too cowardly to stand up for the LGBT+ community unless you were at the stadium.

Did you know that the Dodgers had an LGBT+-focused drone show after the game? You would not know it from social media or any official media put out by the Dodgers.

I do not believe that I am being overly sensitive or looking for drama in this regard. Just look at teams, even in less-than-liberal areas like Phoenix, St. Louis, and Tampa. This situation is not one gets a pass for wearing a patch as we are all not trapped in a Seinfeld bit. Taking all of these factors into account, the only reasonable conclusion, at least for this year, is that the Dodgers are now a fair-weather partner to the LGBT+ community.

Even leaving the Sisters aside for a moment, as I wrote last year in remembrance of Glenn Burke, I wrote that “the work towards integration and true inclusion of [the LGBT+ community] into baseball requires more work than simply putting rainbows on the field. What was done to Glenn Burke cannot be undone, but the Dodgers and the League can [ensure] that such a series of events never happen again. Gestures without action behind them are simply empty tokenism.”

What frustrates me most is that there was an opportunity for a teachable moment here. As most of you have done here, we have interacted with grace and humility on a touchy subject. The Dodgers did not do what you did. The organization chose the path of least resistance while doing just enough to keep the money flowing in.

Whether this decision was due to keeping certain players happy or not wanting to invite further scrutiny or a craven calculation to draw people to the ballpark with the minimum amount of effort, or some other factor that I do not know, the choices made by the organization do not meet the standard as an ally to the LGBT+ community that it has proffered for itself.

If the organization is only willing to stand with the LGBTQ+ community when it is convenient, that’s not being an ally, that’s not being a partner, that’s being craven, cynical, and fair-weathered. Last night had ominous echoes of 2014 when Major League Baseball professed to honor Glenn Burke at the All-Star Game, but you would never know it while watching at home.

Pride Night requires more than wearing a patch and charging extra for a ticket. One cannot call themselves a leader and then cut and run when it is inconvenient. Maybe next year, the Dodgers will have the fortitude to act with the courage of its convictions as to the LGBTQ+ community.