Several Tampa Bay Rays players removed rainbow logos from their jerseys before taking the field this weekend for the team’s annual Pride Night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, referring to LGBTQ identity as a “lifestyle.”
Pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson were among the players who reportedly peeled a special rainbow version of the team’s logo from their uniforms and chose to wear their usual caps instead of the special Pride-themed version featuring the Rays’ “TB” logo cast in the colors of the LGBTQ flag.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” said Adam, who was chosen by team officials to speak for the players.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
He insisted their decision was not based in judgement and that LGBTQ people was welcome at Rays games. “We love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
Adam and company were in the minority, however. According to the Tampa Bay Times, more than half the Rays players wore the Pride-themed uniform.
“It’s one of those things, my parents taught me to love everyone as they are, go live your life, whatever your preferences are, go be you,” said outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was among the players who chose to wear the rainbow hat and patch. “I can’t speak for everyone who’s in here, obviously, but this is a family-friendly environment here at a big-league ball field.… We just want everyone to feel welcomed and included and cheer us on. No matter what your views on anything are.”
The team’s manager, Kevin Cash, insisted that the players’ differing opinions on LGBTQ issues hadn’t created divisions in the locker room. “I think what it has created is, like, what you’ve heard — a lot of conversation and valuing the different perspectives inside the clubhouse but really appreciating the community that we’re trying to support here.”
Saturday’s game was the team’s 16th Pride Night celebration at Tropicana Field and comes at a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation is becoming increasingly prevalent. Florida in particular has been in the news due to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently signed into law.
“By doing this, we extend an invitation not just for this game but for all of our games that the LGBTQ+ community is invited, welcomed and celebrated,” Rays president Matt Silverman said of the team’s Pride Night.
Meanwhile, as The New York Times noted, the pitchers who opted out of the Pride gear gave up the team’s two-run lead, costing the Rays Saturday night’s game.