On Friday, June 3rd the Boston Red Sox will host their annual Pride Night at Fenway Park that honors members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. The Boston Red Sox have emerged as one of the more vocal supporters of LGBTQ rights in baseball during a time when gay athletes continue to face struggles in coming out. It’s important to see the Red Sox and members of its organization support LGBTQ rights with manager John Farrell going so far as to say, “We as an organization are always looking to create a welcoming environment at Fenway Park.” With that level of support, Pride Night at Fenway Park represents one of the best efforts in baseball to acknowledge and welcome members of the LGBTQ community.
Pride Night initially began in 2013 when former NBA player Jason Collins threw out the first pitch before a game during Pride Week in Boston. Collins was the first active player to come out as gay in the NBA and has since become a champion of LGBTQ rights. Since then, the Boston Red Sox have hosted Pride Night each year during the month of June when the City of Boston celebrates Pride Week. This event is particularly important to baseball because the game has yet to see an active Major League baseball player come out. While the NFL and NBA have already seen a player come out, many point to baseball’s conservative nature as the reason behind this absence. Specifically, many point to the lack of exposure to a more progressive environment among its players as the reason why the MLB hasn’t seen a gay player yet.
Pride Night Shows that MLB is Ready for a Gay Player?
To clarify, players in the NFL and NBA often go to college first before going pro where they live in a more inclusive environment. As a result, NFL and NBA players are more inclined to accept a gay teammate. So while college has been the primary place where the NFL and NBA have drafted players, professional baseball players have been more likely to get drafted directly from high school (this has changed in recent years). This direct route from high school to the pros meant that baseball players were not exposed to the kind of accepting environments that their NFL and NBA counterparts experienced. As a result, many baseball players have taken a dim view of LGBTQ inclusion.
I am not saying that the lack of a college education makes someone a bigot. It is a difficult pattern to ignore when discussing LGBTQ issues in sports though. However, when David Denson, a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers’ rookie affiliate, came out last year, he found a tremendous amount of support from his teammates. Additionally, current baseball players have stated that they wouldn’t have a problem with a gay teammate as long as he played well. This progress is a sign that Major League Baseball is more than ready to accept a gay baseball player.