Tampa Bay Rays players who declined to wear special LGBT patches and caps as the team held a “pride month” event Saturday have been called bigots for acting out their Christian faith.
Acting as a spokesman for the MLB players, Rays pitcher Jason Adam said they didn’t feel it was right for them to encourage the LGBT lifestyle, but they wanted to make it clear that “all are welcome and loved here.”
That led to an anti-Christian rant from ESPN’s Sarah Spain on Monday.
“Pride is about inclusion, so you don’t love them and don’t welcome them if you’re not willing to wear the patch,” Spain said on “Around the Horn.”
“And so we have to stop tiptoeing around it because we’re trying to protect people who are trying to be bigoted from asking for them to be exempt from it, when the very people that they are bigoted against are suffering the consequences.”
Host Tony Reali interjected, “When you say ‘trying to be bigoted’ …”
“They’re trying to use religious exemptions to affect the opportunities, services, available resources for people who are LGBTQ+,” she said.
“And a patch on the jersey in this way?” Reali asked.
“In the case of sport, no,” Spain said. “In the case of sport, though, they’re double-talking if they’re saying ‘you’re welcome’ while also saying that ‘we don’t encourage or we disagree with it.’”
In addition to Adam, the players who did not participate included pitchers Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.
Many rebuked Spain for attacking players who were acting from faith.
Spain doubled down on her rant Monday on Twitter.
“The term homosexual didn’t exist until the late 19th century!” she claimed. “Bible references aren’t aligned w/ today’s same-sex loving relationship.”
The ESPN reporter went on to say, “Using your religion as a shield for ignorance & bigotry is antiquated–and it’s a choice. It’s a choice made of privilege: You’re not affected by the policies & laws that discriminate. You’re not endangered by the hatred that bubbles.
“It’s a choice made of ignorance: You use faith to disguise fear of the unknown & you choose not to learn or evolve. You selectively pick & choose Bible verses to ignore and/or modernize while clinging to a hate-filled interpretation of LGBTQ that’s eons past being relevant.”
Adam told reporters on Saturday the decision was about the players’ Christian faith, not hate, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” he said. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here.
“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.”
“It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down,” Adam said. “It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold.”
The 30-year-old Christian noted that the players are not against anyone.
“But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here,” he said.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said he did not think the incident would divide the team because it came after discussions among players in recent weeks, according to The Associated Press.
“First and foremost, I think the organization has done a really good thing to have Pride Night’s supporting our gay community to come out and have a nice night at the ballpark,” Cash said.
“Impressed that our players have had those conversions and we want to support our players that choose to wear or choose not to wear to the best of our capabilities.”