Phillies Pride Night is this week, Thursday, June 28th, and as with any event of its kind throughout major league sports, its existence is difficult to reconcile with the actions of its respective athletes, teams, and leagues. Baseball culture perpetuates toxic masculinity to a point where players aren’t comfortable being publicly LGBTQ. Slurs are captured on camera often enough that it makes a fan wonder how many are caught via league cameras or microphones that are swept under a rug. Just earlier this month, the Phillies invited Curt Schilling to the ballpark in order to honor him with the rest of the 1993 team. This isn’t an article about Curt Schilling though and if you need information about why hearing Curt Schilling’s name announced in the park while buying Pride tickets made me frustrated, feel free to follow this link.
For thirteen years, there were gay community days at Veterans Stadium and then Citizens Bank Park, affectionately called Phillies Gay Days. While these nights were in partnership with the Phillies ticket sale office, they were championed by the local LGBTQ community, particularly Larry Felzer who continues to promote the event. As of 2016, the Phillies have officially hosted Pride Celebration theme nights as we currently know them. This year for the first time, the team even participated in the Philly Pride Parade & Festival along with the 76ers and Union (The Flyers and the Eagles have not participated in Philly Pride). While they did not march in the parade, they did have a table set up at the festival on June 10th.
This year’s giveaway for the game is “an exclusive Phillies Pride Night presented by Giant flag.” As seen above, it’s a white Phillies ‘P’ on a rainbow flag with a Giant logo in the bottom right hand corner. Personally, I feel this is a huge step-up from last year’s giveaway when the participants were given a pair of rainbow socks. Don’t get me wrong, I wore them during the game but I also kept looking at them with my head tilted sideways. I find the flag to be a definite improvement.
As with other theme nights, the discount code (PRIDE) will grant the user $4 off tickets in $47 or under sections for Pride Night. Interestingly enough, no portion of tickets proceeds will go to local LGBTQ charities but the 50/50 money will be given to the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU. According to the Phillies VP of Communication, Bonnie Clark, that chapter was the only charity to apply to be the recipient of the Pride Night’s 50/50 drawing. Although just last year, Philadelphia’s own Attic Youth was the recipient of money from the Phillies Charities Inc.
Throwing out the first pitch will be Rue Landau, the city’s executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the National Anthem will be sung by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus.
I have no doubt that it’s going to be an exciting night and I plan to enjoy it with my friends and family but I still hope that the Phillies continue to push harder and do better. Maybe think first before inviting Curt Schilling anywhere. Maybe fly the city’s inclusive rainbow flag again like you did with their old pride flag the first year for ballpark’s Pride celebration. Maybe be as visible at Philly Pride Festival and Parade as you are everywhere else in this city.
I understand baseball is a business that feeds off of nostalgia but I’m a part of that cycle too which means I’m allowed to write articles like this in the hopes that next year, someone pushes a little more for this night to be the best that it can be. It doesn’t matter if my heart skips a beat when I see the Phillies’ twitter avatar changed to rainbow for less than 24 hours or when I can buy a rainbow hat in the Majestic Store-- my heart skips that same beat every time the actions of someone in the sport dehumanizes the LGBTQ+ community. That’s not all on the Phillies, sure, but they, along with most every other sports teams and leagues, are part of it. They march in Pride parades and sell us rainbow merchandise and wonder why those two things alone aren’t enough to coax an LGBTQ player out from hiding. Much like the criticisms towards the YouCanPlay organization (one of the Phillies beneficiaries for the 2017 Pride game), LGBTQ players don’t need to be told that they “can play” — they need to see that the league and their teams will protect them when the occasion arises.
It is a strange yet empowering feeling to be celebrating oneself and friends in a baseball stadium even though you know there are people attending (and making their opinions known as social media) that they don’t want you there or really anywhere else. I’ll still be in Citizens Bank Park on Pride Night and honestly, if I get up enough courage, I’ll probably wear the rainbow flag giveaway as a cape. To everyone attending, I hope you have a safe and fun night. To any closeted players in any stadium and in any sport, I hope these nights bring you comfort as opposed to fear and I hope you have good people around you. I wish you all the best. You don’t owe anyone anything.
I’ll see everyone June 28th at 7:05.
-Thanks to the Phillies public relations department for providing all this information about the Phillies involvement with Pride Night.
-The Phillies are listing 2018 as their “second annual Pride Night Celebration” on the theme night webpage-- it is actually their third.