The Mets held their sixth annual Pride Night at Citi Field Friday evening, and in a day and age where members of the LGBTQ+ community are being attacked and maligned at every turn, where “religious freedom” tends to be turned into a cudgel to discriminate against the community, and where even MLB teams’ Pride Nights are being turned into an opportunity to discuss people’s disagreements with “lifestyle choices,” the Mets took the opportunity to embrace queer and trans people at every turn.
Citi Field was adorned with Pride Flags, with one flying just below the American flag in the Coca-Cola corner, and others flying along the top of the stadium. The Coca-Cola sign itself was filled all night with the rainbow colors, and each digital screen on the field had a rainbow-themed Mets design on it. The Citi Field betting odds of the evening was how many Cher songs would be played, with the over/under being 0.5 (they blew past that with 2). Fans received Pride themed fanny packs, which looked better in person than in photos, and Pride merchandise was being sold throughout the stadium, with hats, shirts, and even drink koozies having the glorious rainbow coloring.
They also planned events before and during the game to coincide with the evening. Before the game started they had a book signing with Dale Scott, a former MLB umpire who came out as gay. The national anthem was sung by Krystofer Maison, a queer nonbinary musician, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame was sung by drag queen Jan Sport, who competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
But maybe the most heartening part of the evening was the actual Mets personnel so clearly and emphatically embracing the festivities. Earlier in the month, the Mets sent Mr. and Mrs. Met to walk with various Met employees in the Queens Pride Parade. In the days leading up to Pride Night, both Mark Canha and Taijuan Walker tweeted their excitement for the evening. On the day of, several Mets were on the field warming up in Mets-branded Pride gear, with Buck Showalter and Alex Cohen getting in on the action. Prior to the game starting, Taijuan Walker went to the Mets team store and paid for several fans’ pride gear. And Mark Canha, in maybe my favorite move of the night, tailored his various walk-up songs to the Pride theme, coming out to songs by such gay icons as Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Lady Gaga.
It’s a night that, for Mets teams prior, and even other teams this year, was lip service, a way to appease a certain section of the fan base but something that is more marketing than actual outreach and engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. But this year, it felt different. I went to Pride Night last year, as well, and while I thought they did a pretty good job last year, this year felt above and beyond. It felt celebratory and truly heartfelt, not just rainbow capitalism but an actual genuine attempt at connection with a community that has been ostracized by baseball many times before, and even by the Mets themselves. And while I can practically feel some people rolling their eyes at this—“oh, this sucker FELL for it?”—of course I realize this is good public relations and an easy win. But between the sale of Pride gear sending the proceeds to the Amazin’ Mets Foundation, and the full embrace by the players when they very easily could’ve just said the bare minimum (or even less than the bare minimum), the players and personnel made it clear that they do actually care.
I remember when Daniel Murphy made his now-infamous homophobic comments. I was in high school. I had just come out, and reading what he said made me want to throw up. Here was a guy I had liked, rooted for, who disagreed with the fact that someone was homosexual, but that that shouldn’t “completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect” (he really had to jump through hoops to not say “having a relationship with him” there). It made me want to puke. Baseball has always been a sanctuary for me, and while I’ve never kidded myself into believing every player is the paragon of progressive ideals, it still stung to hear those words leave the mouth of someone I admired. Now I think about the kid who is in high school right now, who just came out, who is scared, who just wants some reassurance. And now, two players on their favorite team are whole-heartedly announcing their support of a Pride night and following through with actions. Mark Canha and Taijuan Walker shouldn’t get points for being decent human beings, but in this sport, it is a rarity to have players so vocally pro-gay rights.
And that’s something we just got a taste of again. Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Rays had their Pride Night, and it quite notably didn’t go swimmingly. Five players refused to don the rainbow colored logos on their hats and sleeves, instead opting to wear their regular hats and to remove the sleeve logo. And Jason Adam, who was chosen by the team to articulate the reasoning behind the opting out of the players, used language that was even worse than Murphy’s comments seven years ago, somehow. Not only did they not agree with the lifestyle, well, they didn’t want to “encourage the behavior.” Because if science has taught us anything, it’s that when people see rainbow coloring, they go absolutely insane and become raging homosexuals.
Note how it’s always the Pride Night that people opt out of and defend with religious freedom. Nobody ever opts out of the Memorial Day uniforms due to stringent pacifism, or out of the Mother’s Day pink garb due to distaste at the way Susan G. Komen runs their charity. But “religious freedom” defends their right to not wear the rainbow colors on their jerseys made of mixed fabrics while playing on the sabbath with their bodies covered in tattoos and gold chains around their necks (and I’m sure most of them eat shellfish too). Why is it that only homosexuality is a bridge too far, when the actual passage in the bible is talking about pedophilia?
But the Rays Pride Night debacle and aftermath did nothing if not show us how precious and wonderful it is to see a team fully support a Pride Night, viewing not as a religious freedom debate but as a way to uplift people who, while having made some good strides, still have to fight and claw to keep the progress they’ve made, let alone fight for more rights and equality. The Giants have been wearing rainbow logos on the field for two years now, while the Dodgers did it for the first time this year while also celebrating Glenn Burke, the first baseball player to come out. The Mets, while not donning rainbow on their jerseys, did a great job to make the night feel celebratory and inclusive. And the way people looked around the park—at ease, happy—it’s clear others shared my sentiment. And a fun, exciting win helped even more.
And just as a final, personal note, I have never felt more at ease, more comfortable in my own skin at Citi Field than I did at this Pride Night. I was dressed head to toe pride, with a pride hat, pin, shirt, and of course fanny pack, and every time I saw the rainbow signs, heard one of Canha’s deliriously fun walk up songs, or saw someone holding up a rainbow flag and waving it around, I found myself moved, nearly to tears. That’s not surprising for me, noted crybaby, but it felt earned. It felt as though, after two weeks since the Rays debacle, after seven years since Murphy’s comments, after all the times in my relatively short life I’ve had to watch my community take punches under the guise of morality and religious freedom, this team stepped up to the plate for the community, and players took it upon themselves to make fans feel loved and accepted. I felt safe, and I don’t think people who have felt unsafe in that way know what the difference is. They can roll their eyes and say it’s not that big of a deal. But I know. And I am grateful.