A funny thing happened while I was perusing through the Phillies’ schedule of theme nights for the upcoming 2016 season: The Philadelphia Phillies are hosting an actual, honest to god LGBT Pride Night.
Let me back up a little bit for a second and introduce myself. I’m T.G.K. (or Stephen, if you’d prefer) and I wrote a Fanpost last fall about how I became a Phillies fan. Since then, I somehow managed to find myself as your newest Good Phighter, so… here’s my debut post!
As a gay fan, and a relatively new one at that, I’ve always had my ear to the ground when it came to messages of inclusion from the Phillies. After all, one of the major things that precluded me from becoming a fan in the first place was my perception that it was an unwelcoming environment for me. Therefore, gestures that indicate otherwise are very important to me. And the Phillies have a middling record on the subject.
I sure as hell took notice of the It Gets Better video that they filmed, which must not have seemed like a big deal to most people, but was deeply meaningful to me. I was also very happy to hear that they were one of the first teams to invite Billy Bean, gay former player and MLB’s then-Ambassador for Inclusion, to speak to the team last spring.
Another point of pride (heh) for me when it came to the Phillies and their LGBT fans were the Gay Community Nights that have been hosted for over a decade. Initially, I took these to be the Phillies’ version of Pride Night. I have gone to these past couple games and to very little fanfare at all, especially compared to the sorts of things that happen on other theme nights like the various heritage nights or country music night. Eventually I realized that they were in fact just group ticket packages organized by an outside group, as opposed to full theme nights.
Lately, more teams have begun to host their own full blown LGBT Pride celebrations. Last year, the Oakland Athletics hosted their first Pride Night, which ended up being incredibly successful. It was in watching this beautiful display of clear, vocal inclusion from the A’s organization that made me yearn for the same from my own team.
When the Phillies first released their 2016 season schedule, I tried to find any hint of when Gay Community Night would be, because at least I’d have that if nothing else. But I could not. Though frustrated, I figured it was early and they might not have gotten around to planning it yet, so I let it go for a while.
The Mets’ announcement was met (heh) with the reaction that we have come to expect from these things: loud voices of ignorance and opposition mixed in with a wealth of congratulations and excitement from a larger, more welcoming group. My feelings were mixed, in that I was genuinely very happy to see another team join the A’s, Rays, White Sox and others in providing an unequivocally welcoming environment to an overlooked group of fans.
But I also don’t like seeing the Mets beat the Phillies at anything, baseball games or otherwise. In my disappointment, I @’d them on the subject, with the knowledge that yes, there is a human being behind the gradually improving Phillies Twitter account. It would be easy to miss and even easier to ignore, but I had to say my peace.
Eventually I went back to the team’s theme night page, not expecting to find a Pride Night but rather a reason to rant about the lack of one. But, out of nowhere, there it was: The Phillies are hosting an honest to god LGBT Pride Night. It will be on August 29 vs. the Washington Nationals, and it is being billed as their "Inaugural Pride Night Celebration," which acknowledges the lack of institutional support there had been for the previous Gay Community Nights. Which is excellent.
I’m not exactly sure why this hasn’t gotten any media attention yet. To my knowledge, there have been no formal announcements or press conferences making people aware of something that should prove to be a BFD. Maybe an announcement of that nature is forthcoming, but for now a quick google search turns up nothing on the issue other than the page itself. Unless they make a formal announcement in the future, it just looks like it was shoehorned into the schedule, potentially to blunt criticism in the wake of their NL East rival’s decision to get in the game.
The Phillies definitely deserve praise for the efforts that they have made toward the inclusion of LGBT fans. It is not a requirement that they do any of these things, and plenty of other MLB teams have done far less. However, I also think it is fair to critique some of these efforts as feeling half-assed, and to expect better from the organization in the future.
One thing is certain, though: I know exactly where I will be on the evening of August 29th this year.