Back in 2000, two women were kicked out of Dodger Stadium for kissing. The team and the world have changed since then. Between innings of Saturday’s game, the stadium’s Kiss Cam team found two men, not as a joke, but a couple. (It’s at the 0:28 mark.)
It’s cool that this wasn’t the still-prevalent homophobic gag of forcing two platonic male friends to awkwardly recoil at the thought of kissing another dude. It’s also cool that the reaction from the crowd was a genuine cheer. Reader Steven, who was in the ballpark (but didn’t film this video), says he was “proud of the loud, enthusiastic response from the crowd. Not one person around me groaned or made derogatory remarks, and seemed genuinely pleased with the moment.”
The Dodgers have held LGBT nights in recent years, and while it’s great to publicly announce that everyone’s welcome, there’s nothing quite like being normalized by dorky in-stadium entertainment to make everyone feel included.
Affeldt penned a blog post this week in which he urged Christians to be more tolerant toward gays. He writes:
Why do people who aren’t Christians hate us? They look at us and say, “You’re just a bunch of Bible thumpers who are homophobic and you don’t love anybody.”
We’ve brought that on ourselves. I don’t think we’re showing the love of Jesus. Gay people are asking for equal rights under the law, and we’ve got Christians saying “God hates you.” I get so angry because that’s not true! Godloves you! Jesus walks with the gay community! I think Jesus says, “I love you just as I love someone who is not gay. I love you as a human being. I just love you.”
Affeldt doesn’t directly connect this to current events, but it’s easy to read his words and make connections to the religious freedom law under scrutiny in Indiana because it would allow businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. A similar law in Arkansas is also under fire this week. This even matters in baseball, where the Oakland Athletics’ Pride Night has rattled some fans in the very liberal Bay Area.
The New England Patriots, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays have all signed onto an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, according to the Huffington Post. They are among almost 400 companies - many of which are some of the biggest corporations in the country - to support the brief. The Supreme Court will hear a case on gay marriage on April 28 and is expected to make a determination by June.
All of these teams have strong histories on LGBT issues. The Patriots’ owner, Bob Kraft, supported LGBT rights years ago and the Patriots appeared at an LGBT fundraiser years before it was en vogue. The Giants were the first team to produce an It Gets Better video in 2011, sparking a string of other MLB teams to follow suit. That list included the Rays.
Cuddyer says he has never had a gay teammate that he has known of. Daniel Murphy says he has not either.
He too is ready for a gay teammate, he says. The Mets consulted players this winter before bringing Bean in and Murphy called the idea “forward thinking.” More than just listening to a seminor or speech, it was an opportunity to get to known an individual. He regretted that he had not had the chance to meet Bean yet.
Murphy, a devout Christian, said he would embrace Bean despite a divergence in their beliefs.
“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”
But Murphy also saw the moment as an opening for a conversation and an avenue to get past stereotypes. The issue, he says, was “uncharted territory.”
While there may be a perception that Christian athletes may not be accepting of gay players, Murphy says that it is not the case.
“Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality,” he said. “We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”
Still, through his Minor League career that stretched across six seasons and four Major League Baseball franchises, Burch kept to that mantra: No one asked, no need to tell. During a game for the BaySox in 2008, a rare opportunity presented itself. Sitting in the bullpen, one of his teammates, a pitcher from Latin America, asked him if he had a girlfriend with whom to spend their upcoming break. The door opened and Burch strode right through it.
“I’m not interested in girls. I’m gay. And I don’t have a boyfriend.”..
That wasn’t the only time he shared his sexual orientation with teammates. He opened up to people he trusted, men he had known for a while and people he considered true friends. That list of trusted teammates simply wasn’t very long, as the life of a Minor League player is full of change. He played for five different A+ and AA teams, and two Major League spring trainings, in just his final two seasons in baseball. Players are traded, moved up, dropped down and sent to other teams all season long. Opportunities to build deep, trusting relationships with teammates are few and far between.