June is Pride Month, and the Tampa Bay Rays are showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community by having Pride Night at Tropicana Field, which features players wearing special hats with rainbow logos and a sleeve decal on the field. But several Rays players decided against wearing any Pride-supportive clothing Saturday, which was Pride Night at Tropicana Field.
According to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays made their Pride Night uniforms optional, allowing players to make their own decision about whether or not they wanted to wear the rainbow hat and put the rainbow decal on their sleeves. The majority of the team appeared to participate, but a group of players opted to wear their normal uniforms and hats.
It's not known exactly how many players decided not to wear the Pride decals, but Topkin reported that the group included pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.
Only one player discussed the decision to opt out of the uniforms: Jason Adam, who was chosen by team officials to speak on behalf of the group. Adam's explanation focused on religion, explicitly saying that the group didn't want to "encourage" the "lifestyle" of LGBTQ+ people due to their personal religious belief.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Adam said via the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”
While it doesn't appear that a player was chosen by team officials to speak on behalf of the players who wore the Pride Night uniforms, Kevin Kiermaier discussed why he supported the LGBTQ+ community.
“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,” Kiermaier said. “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.”
Choice sparked 'conversations,' not division
Topkin reported that it was important to the Rays to make the Pride Night uniform optional, though they were hoping for full participation.
The Rays' decision to make Pride Night uniforms optional could have introduced discord into the clubhouse since not everyone agreed to visibly support the LGBTQ+ community. However, according to Topkin, players and coaches said that there were "numerous" conversations about the issue within the clubhouse, and it didn't cause any discord between players.
When asked about whether the conversations caused any "division" in the clubhouse, manager Kevin Cash said that the opposite had happened: the conversations were both productive and respectful.
“I certainly hope not,” manager Kevin Cash said. “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.”