The Tampa Bay Rays celebrated Pride Night during Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox, but some players on the team chose not to participate.
This was the organization's 16th Pride Night event at Tropicana Field. For the first time, the Rays added rainbow-colored logos on their uniforms, specifically the "TB" on their caps and the sunburst on their right jersey sleeves.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that "well more than half the players appeared to participate." However, pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson were among the players who peeled off the sunburst on their sleeves and wore the standard hats.
Adam was elected by team officials to speak about opting out of wearing the uniforms, and he cited religion as the reason:
"A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision. 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. It's just what we believe the lifestyle he's encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here."
Veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier is one of the players who have a differing view, saying that he was raised to treat people equally.
"It's one of those things, my parents taught me to love everyone as they are, go live your life, whatever your preferences are, go be you," Kiermaier said. "I can't speak for everyone who's in here, obviously, but this is a family-friendly environment here at a big league ball field. ... We just want everyone to feel welcomed and included and cheer us on. No matter what your views on anything are."
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty voiced his displeasure with the Rays players who refused to wear the logos:
Rays manager Kevin Cash addressed the situation after Sunday's game, saying he doesn't think it will divide the team.
"First and foremost, I think the organization has done a really good thing to have Pride Nights supporting our gay community to come out and have a nice night at the ballpark," Cash said. "Impressed that our players have had those conversations and we want to support our players that choose to wear or choose not to wear to the best of our capabilities."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law earlier this year that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten to the third grade.
Despite the state government's apparent efforts to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community, the Rays have remained involved in efforts to support it. According to Topkin, Tampa Bay was "the first pro sports team to sign an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage and joining the 'It Gets Better' campaign to fight youth bullying."
Saturday's Pride Night had an attendance of 19,452, while the season average for Rays games is 16,868. Sunday's series finale against the White Sox had a crowd of 11,162.