When the New York Mets held their first LGBTQ Pride Night in August 2016, fans waved rainbow flags in the stadium, the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band performed, Citi Field’s giant Coca-Cola sign was lit up in rainbow colors and the Kiss Cam caught several same-sex smooches throughout the game. In keeping with tradition, the team honored a veteran at the game, and for that first Pride Night, the Mets honored a gay Army vet.
Nearly two years later, however, the Mets’ hometown rivals — the New York Yankees — have yet to host a Pride Night of their own, In fact, the Yankees are currently the only Major League Baseball team that has neither had a Pride Night nor has one scheduled.
When the Los Angeles Angels announced earlier this week their plans to host an LGBTQ-themed night in June 2019, the Yankees were left as the lone Pride Night holdout among the MLB’s 30 teams.
“It's going to be real hard to look in the mirror and see themselves as the only team in Major League Baseball that is not holding a Pride Night,” said David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network, a New York-based nonprofit.
Kilmnick was the one who first pitched the idea of Pride Night to the Mets. He said he tried to do the same with the Yankees at the 2016 MLB Diversity Business Summit, despite being a lifelong Mets fan.
“I still thought it was important that … all New York teams show their support for the LGBT community,” Kilmnick explained. However, he said the Yankees didn’t seem interested, noting “there wasn’t much going back and forth.”
“It’s a shame that we have a team here in the greatest city in the entire country, and one of the most diverse cities in the entire country, that is not doing a Pride Night to welcome its LGBT fanbase,” Kilmnick added.
It is important to note, however, that the Yankees don’t just sidestep Pride Night. As The New York Times recently pointed out, the team has in recent years largely shied away from promotions with “an ethnic or cultural flavor.”
While the team may shy away from public events that support the LGBTQ community, Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo told The New York Times last year that the team works behind the scenes to advance LGBTQ inclusivity. He cited as an example the work the team’s general manager and assistant general manager have done with organizations that assist LGBTQ youth.
Brian Kitts, co-founder of You Can Play, a nonprofit dedicated to LGBTQ inclusion in sports, warned not to jump to conclusions regarding the Yankees.
“It’s easy to get caught up in whether or not holding a Pride Night is a sin,” Kitts told NBC news. “In a lot of ways, Pride Nights are an easy way to check a box.”
Proponents of baseball Pride Nights say the events promote inclusivity both on the field and in the stands.
There have been a number of instances over the past decade where homophobic slurs and chants from baseball stadiums have made headlines. In 2010, for example, Yankee fans were caught on camera singing a homophobic version of “Y.M.C.A.” — “Y.R.U.Gay?” — from the stands, despite a Yankee spokesperson’s insistence that such lyrics were not tolerated.
“I think that we are still in an era where you can be kicked out of a venue for using a racial slur,” Kitts said. “But I think that too often venue security doesn't react when they hear a homophobic slur and, you know, that sends the wrong message to fans in general…it's OK to use a slur against one set of fans, but not another.”
Kilmnick said the Mets’ two Pride Nights have helped alleviate some of these issues and have created a “greater awareness of the environments these games have.”
“We should all be working together to create a more inclusive ballpark,” Kilmnick added, “so that we can help cheer … and root our teams on without the fear of being harassed.”