Look at the Royals’ 2018 promotional calendar and you’ll see all sorts of events to get you out to the ballpark. These range from the very solemn Armed Forces Night to the very silly Star Wars Night. There are nights to celebrate local universities, Boys and Girls Scouts, law enforcement, firefighters....even bacon!
But one night you won’t find on the calendar is Royals LGBT Pride Night. It is time for that to change.
According to Outsports, 24 teams now have a LGBT Pride Night, although they include the Royals. But the Royals have never had an official club-sanctioned Pride Night, only a night organized by a local LGBT fan group that arranges a group outing to the stadium each year - this year’s is scheduled for September 15.
This month, during LGBT Pride Month, the Blue Jays, Nationals, and Red Sox, among other teams, had celebrations for Pride Night, as well as the Athletics last weekend while the Royals were in town. And it is not just liberal, coastal cities in blue states hosting Pride Nights. The Cincinnati Reds and our fellow Missourians, the St. Louis Cardinals are also joining in this year.
Some fans don’t want anything political at the ballpark - “stick to sports!” is a familiar refrain. But we’ve gone way past that at the K already. The Royals have waded into the abortion debate, have made a stand against pornography, and at their Faith and Family Night next month, the main speaker will be an evangelist who lost the Republican primary for Governor of Alabama.
And really, acceptance of the LGBTQ community as a part of society has transcended political debate, and in a hurry. Just ten years ago, we had the Democratic president, as a candidate, expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage. Now, we have a Republican president who has said he is fine with same-sex marriage, and even waved an LGBT Pride flag to express his support. Regardless of his actual track record on gay rights, the fact that the leading Republican candidate waved a Pride flag to garner public support speaks volumes on how mainstream acceptance has become.
According to polling, 62% of Americans support same-sex marriage, and 70% say homosexuality should be accepted by society - including a majority of Republicans. The celebration of Pride Month has become so mainstream it has been embraced by Walmart, McDonald’s, and the FBI.
The first response by those cool or outright hostile to the idea is typically, “when is Straight Night?” Yet no one says in response to Nurse Appreciation Night, “hey, when is Patient Appreciation Night?” Every night is Straight Night at the K, as heterosexuality is customarily seen as the default setting in our culture.
This is why having an LGBT Pride Night is so important. LGBT fans have sat through Kiss Cams that are 100% heterosexual couples, and if there ever is a same-sex couple, it is often for laughs (ha ha, look we put two opposing players on Kiss Cam and it would be funny if they kissed).
But an even more more serious reason for having a Pride Night is that despite rising acceptance, LGBT individuals are still often marginalized, bullied, and discriminated against, particularly in more conservative, midwestern communities that include much of the Royals’ territory. Having a Pride Night sends a message to those fans, that they are just as #ForeverRoyal as anyone else.
It is inevitable that some will respond to this call with a “Who cares? Why should someone’s sexuality matter enough to merit a night?” And inevitably, there will be some ugly responses that show precisely why such a night matters.
Maybe we will get to a point where it absolutely doesn’t matter, because the LGBT community is accepted as wholly and universally as nurses or firefighters. But maybe having a Pride Night now will help a gay Royals fan in western Kansas, or a lesbian Alex Gordon fan in mid-Missouri, or a transgender Ned Yost apologist in Kansas City know that they are welcome anytime at the K.
And maybe that’s just a little bit more important than appreciating bacon.