Content Warning: Homophobia
After a decades-long campaign to overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which resulted in ending the right to abortion care in the United States, conservatives are taking aim at LGBTQIA2S+ identities. According to the Human Rights Campaign, this year has seen “over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in states across the country”, many targeting health care for transgender children. In a throwback to rhetoric from the 1970s and 1980s, right-wing bigots are branding openly gay and transgender individuals as sexual predators who endanger America’s youth.
The latest campaigns coincide with Pride Month, celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots, the seminal event of the LGBTQIA2S+ rights movement in the United States. As LGBTQIA2S+ individuals have gained societal acceptance, corporations began leveraging Pride Month as a marketing and branding opportunity. Professional sports leagues like Major League Baseball have quickly adopted Pride events as a chance to sell special merchandise and increase fan engagement.
Conservative fearmongers seeking to erase LGBTQIA2S+ identities from public life are vociferously attacking corporate Pride marketing in retail and sports. A vicious propaganda campaign against the retailer Target for selling Pride-themed merchandise at its stores has resulted in vandalism and harassment of Target employees by radicalized customers.
Dodgers Backtrack After Caving to Catholic League, Marco Rubio
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Dodgers made news for ceding to conservative pressure to change their Pride Night celebration. The Dodgers had planned to honor the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (“Sisters”), a charitable advocacy group whose members perform as drag nuns, at the team’s Pride Night scheduled for June 16. The Sisters describe themselves as follows:
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® are a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty.
Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.
We use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.
They are known for their satirical performance art supporting their work to assist AIDS victims, shamed by institutions such as the Catholic Church. This enrages conservative organizations like the Catholic League and Republican politicians like Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio and the Catholic League raised claims of anti-Catholic hatred against the Dodgers, prompting spineless team executives to rescind the nuns’ invitation to Pride Night.
According to The Hollywood Reporter on May 22, the decision to disinvite the Sisters was poorly received by both team employees and local advocates for LGBTQIA2S+ rights. However, it was not until the Dodgers had been roasted for their cowardice by local organizations, officials, and baseball fans did they backtrack and re-invite the Sisters to Pride Night, promising to “better educate ourselves” and “use our platform to support all of our fans[.]”
Kershaw Announces Christian Faith and Family Day Relaunch After Dodgers Re-Invite the Sisters
This did not put an end to the MLB Pride Night culture wars. On May 26, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw announced the “relaunch of Christian Faith and Family Day at Dodger Stadium on July 30th.” The last time this event was held was before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.
Excited to announce the relaunch of Christian Faith and Family Day at Dodger Stadium on July 30th. More details to come— but we are grateful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus and determined to make it bigger and better than it was before COVID. Hope to see you on July 30th! pic.twitter.com/yNu7HyEgR9
— Clayton Kershaw (@ClaytonKersh22) May 26, 2023
Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times wrote on May 29 that Kershaw “approached the [Dodgers] organization about expediting his announcement” due to his objections concerning the Dodgers’ invitation to the Sisters.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Kershaw said that while there were tentative plans for the club to bring the Christian event back this year — it was an annual staple on the Dodgers’ promotional schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic — his announcement of its relaunch last Friday was prompted by the team’s planned recognition of the Sisters group.
Although Kershaw claims he only takes issue with the Sisters’ satire of the Catholic Church and is not motivated by hostility towards the LGBTQIA2S+ community, Harris writes that the pitcher “declined to offer specifics about his research into the Sisters’ group, or how he reconciles his stated belief ‘to love everybody’ with opposition to a group that has a long history of raising awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes.”
Trevor Williams Posts Anti-Sisters Statement After Publication of Kershaw Comments on Christian Event
As an active franchise legend and future Hall of Famer, Kershaw is an admired leader in Major League Baseball. Following the publication of Harris’s report and Kershaw’s comments on the Christian event at Dodger Stadium, Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams denounced the Sisters and Dodgers organizations. His lengthy-in Twitter terms-diatribe claims the Dodgers are discriminating against Catholics by re-inviting the Sisters to Pride Night.
— Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor) May 30, 2023
As a devout Catholic, I am deeply troubled by the Dodgers’ decision to re-invite and honor the group ‘The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’ at their Pride Night this year.
A Major League Baseball game is a place where people from all walks of life should feel welcomed, something I greatly respect and support. This is the purpose of different themed nights hosted by the organization, including Pride Night.
To invite and honor a group that makes a blatant and deeply offensive mockery of my religion, and the religion of over 4 million people in Los Angeles county [sic] alone, undermines the values of respect and inclusivity that should be upheld by any organization.
Creating an environment in which one group feels celebrated and honored at the respect of another is counterproductive and wrong. It is a clear violation of the Dodgers’ Discrimination Policy, which explicitly states that any conduct or attire at the ballpark that is deemed to be indecent or prejudice [sic] against any particular group or religion) is not tolerated.
It seems that the Dodgers have made an exception in this case, doubling down that this group – which grossly disrespects and openly mocks many of the traditions and beliefs that Catholics hold most dear – should be celebrated.
I believe that it is essential for the Dodgers to reconsider their association with this group and strive to create an inclusive environment that does not demean or disrespect the religious beliefs of any fan or employee.
I also encourage my fellow Catholics to reconsider their support of an organization that allows this type of mockery of its fans to occur.
I know I am not alone in my frustration, hurt and disappointment about this situation.
As Catholics, we look to Jesus Christ and the way He was treated and we realize that any suffering in this world unites us to Him in the next.
Kershaw and Williams use their religious beliefs to justify their disapproval of the Sisters while claiming to be acting in the interest of love and inclusiveness. However, the Catholic League, the main driver of the campaign against the Sisters, is headed by Bill Donohue, a raging homophobe who craves attention. Donohue’s lengthy list of homophobic statements includes calling for boycotts of beer brands that supported the inclusion of gay groups in St. Patrick’s Day parades (2014); campaigning against a TV show based on the life of gay columnist Dan Savage, who Donohue compared to former KKK leader David Duke (2016); attacking gay parents as a guest on The Ingraham Angle (2018); and blaming gay people for the sexual abuses of Catholic clergy (2018). It is clear from Donohue’s record as a strident campaigner against LGBTQIA2S+ rights that any related cause he promotes is founded in hatred.
Kershaw’s high status in baseball has allowed him to fly under the radar during the present cultural tensions. Anthony Bass, a journeyman reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays who enjoys no such status, waded into the culture wars on Monday. He was already unpopular with Jays fans for his lackluster performance on the mound for a last-place team and a previous social media storm. Nonetheless, he felt comfortable sharing anti-LGBTQIA2S+ propaganda on his Instagram account. The shared video features a message that Target, through its Pride Month promotion, is pushing children into gender transition and that the retailer has “teamed up with a Satanist to push pro-Satan clothing and pins to children[.]” Bass’s endorsement of a right-wing cause quickly went viral, resulting in numerous calls for his release.
A Jays spokesperson was prompt to respond, telling CityNews that “the organization is proud to celebrate Pride Month and that ‘individual player sentiments are not representative of the club’s beliefs.'” (It is worth noting that the Blue Jays and CityNews are both owned by Rogers Communications Inc., whose billionaire chairman Edward Rogers is on friendly terms with the emblematic figure of the contemporary conservative movement, former US president Donald Trump.)
On Tuesday, Bass gave an address to media members at Rogers Centre to apologize for his post, adding he is presently “accessing Blue Jays resources to better educate myself, to make better decisions going forward.” He did not take any questions.
Anthony Bass did not take questions from the media. Here’s his statement.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) May 30, 2023
If Anthony Bass really understands the significance of his decision to endorse anti-LGBTQ material yesterday, a 35-second apology and a refusal to answer follow-up questions fails to make that clear.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) May 30, 2023
This incident should linger in fans’ minds, especially if the coming Pride Month is marred by anti-LGBTQIA2S+ propaganda-fueled domestic terrorism.
Featured Image: Pride SF Bud Light beer advertisement with rainbow bottle – San Francisco, California, USA – 2023 by Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com.