Five members of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team made headlines last weekend not for their on-field performance but for their uniform choices. The MLB players, all pitchers, opted out of wearing Pride Month rainbow patches on their jerseys and caps. They cited their faith as the reason but emphasized they welcome and love everyone.
Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher Jason Adam: We’re ‘Not Judgmental’
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jason Adam admitted the decision was tough but largely boils down to faith. The five players want people to “know that all are welcome and loved here,” he says, “but when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe—not that they look down on anybody or think differently—it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like [Jesus] encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
Adam continues, “It’s not judgmental; it’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle [Jesus has] encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women.”
In addition to Adam, the other pitchers who opted out are Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson.
On OutKick.com, Gary Sheffield Jr. applauds the players for “standing up for their faith.” He writes, “Hard to argue against players wanting freedom to express themselves based on their religious backgrounds.”
Sheffield adds, “Maybe this is how life should work? We aren’t all bullied to share black squares or flag patches to be viewed as quality human beings. We have nuanced discussions like adults that lead to a [healthier] environment.”
Critics: Decision Marginalizes the Gay Community
Rays fan Matt LaBarge says the players who opted out not only were “a distraction…from what gay pride is” but also did harm with their comments. Referring to Adams’ explanation, LaBarge says, “By using the word ‘behavior,’ it’s implying that [homosexuality is] a choice. That’s the talk of marginalization, and I couldn’t agree with that.”
Bryan Ruby, an openly gay player with the Nashville Stars, says the pitchers’ decision “was an indication that a lot of people still believe that we just don’t belong there and that we are not welcome and, even on Pride Night, we’re still second-class citizens.”