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5 Tampa Bay Rays players decline to wear LGBTQ Pride-themed jerseys

The players opted out of wearing the rainbow-accented uniforms during the team's annual LGBTQ Pride Night event, citing religious beliefs.
Image: Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay Rays
A detail of the Tampa Bay Rays' Pride burst logo celebrating Pride Month during a game Saturday against the Chicago White Sox in St Petersburg, Fla.Julio Aguilar / Getty Images

Five Tampa Bay Rays players opted out of wearing LGBTQ Pride-themed uniforms during the team's annual Pride Night event.

In honor of Pride Month, which is celebrated during the month of June to show support for the LGBTQ community, the Florida-based Major League Baseball team added rainbow accents to its official uniforms for its Saturday game against the Chicago White Sox.

But five players, all pitchers — Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson — declined to wear the Pride-themed jerseys, citing religious beliefs.

"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," Adam told the Tampa Bay Times after Saturday’s game.

“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," the pitcher continued. "But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”

Thompson also defended the group's decision, telling WFLA, an NBC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, that the team is "completely unified" in its "love for the LGBTQ+ community."

“I cast no judgment. I cast no condemnation. I only feel called to share my faith, which is the most important thing in my life," he said. "I respect everyone’s free will to live their lives however they choose and can promise to treat nobody any different based upon their lifestyle."

In recent years, many professional sports teams have launched annual Pride nights to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Two other MLB teams — the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers — have also previously incorporated Pride symbolism into their uniforms. Both teams had full participation among their players.

Cyd Zeigler, founder of LGBTQ sports site Outsports, denounced the players' decision to not wear the Pride-themed jerseys and slammed the Rays management.

"People are misrepresenting what listening to management about what putting a rainbow flag on your uniform means," he said. "It doesn't mean you endorse sex between men. It just means everyone is welcome at the ballpark."

Zeigler added, "It would have been so much better if no one had worn the rainbow stuff than if only a few people had."

Representatives for the Rays and Major League Baseball did not immediately respond to NBC News' requests for comment.

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