I will not be attending a game at Nationals Park in 2018. I will not be attending any MLB game in any MLB stadium in 2018 or, I'm sad to predict, not for a few years at all. The reason is simple enough: I will not be giving my money to any body which has accepted millions of tax dollars to run an organization that implicitly discriminates against LGBT people. You can point to every pride night you want, you can offer to buy me that rainbow curly W cap. I'm only going to ask: If MLB is so insistent on winning LGBT fans, why aren't they doing more to provide a supportive atmosphere for their LGBT players?
Before the 2017 season I posted an article asking what I think is a very simple question: Why are there no openly LGBT athletes in Major League Baseball? A simple question doesn't always have a simple answer, and the season having passed we can put 2017 in the books as yet another year that not one of the hundreds of players in Major League baseball on 25-man rosters felt comfortable coming out of the closet I challenge anybody out there to find a subsection of 750+ people in this country wherein not a single one is openly gay. We have openly gay religious leader, openly gay politicians in both major parties, openly gay people starring in our favorite TV shows and movies. But no openly gay baseball players at the highest level of competition.
Oh, of course, we had the usual dribble of human interest stories of straight players- marriages, honeymoons, babies the kind of news that confirms the (obvious) presence of heterosexual players in the league. Yes, when it comes to these things fans are not only made aware, but teams and social media operations will make sure you see the gender reveal video, get a link to the happy wife's twitter, hell maybe even buy a a shirt to commemorate the event. And yet despite the usual abundance of these kinds of stories we continue to see the implicit closeting of gay athletes by Major League Baseball.
A year ago I asked this of straight MLB fans:
So I ask you, as a gay baseball fan: Don't let me shout alone. Ask the questions. Make demands. Why are young POC scapegoated for the homophobia that is put into policy by front office personnel, coaches and journalists? Why are organizations that take public money excepted from honoring anti-discrimination statutes? Why are we supposed to believe straight men are inherently superior to gay and trans persons at swinging a bat or throwing a ball?
If we can find it in ourselves to begin asking the important questions hopefully it won't be a wait until the 2018 offseason to see if Major League Baseball will finally make the leap into the 21st century and provide an accepting and supportive atmosphere for openly LGBT ballplayers to perfect their craft along their heterosexual and cisgendered coworkers.
A year later and I have to say that I'm disappointed by my fellow baseball fans. It seems to me that straight fans are not any more angry (or even curious) now than they were a year ago. No straight fan seems to wonder why the institution they support cannot find a way to provide a welcoming atmosphere for openly LGBT players to come out, or at least they can't find the time or energy to ask publicly. The uniform heterosexuality of Major League Baseball must feel like the most normal thing in the world to straight fans, and the effort to break that sense of comfort- to accept that you are supporting and enjoying a clearly homophobic institution- is simply too much burden to bear. For some I would call it a blind spot- for many others I would call it a conscious omission of consideration. They simply don't care.
The 'blame' for this almost always seems to fall squarely on players, the "Locker Room atmosphere" that everybody presumes to know but so few have actually experienced. I'd put money on sportswriters not wanting to have it any other way. I can guarantee you that not one article, not one paragraph will be written by a prominent Major League Baseball writer unless and until a player says something vaguely homophobic. Then the drumbeat of derision will tattoo such player with the indelible mark of "homophobe" just as Yunel Escobar and Daniel Murphy have come to wear. And they deserve the castigation they've earned through their actions, but to hold them up as examples of players creating and being primarily responsible for a homophobic atmosphere is simply misleading and imo outright racist as these aspersions fall on the shoulders of black and brown immigrant players, white fans in the states presuming these athletes simply didn't have the education to give them a respectful understanding of LGBT rights. As soon as the offender has been branded and heterosexual sensibilities eased the issue will disappear again, everybody all the more assured that it's the athletes' faults in the end, nothing internal to our American ideals but something external, brought to us by foreign players. It takes a real skill to wrap your homophobia in racism yet this is exactly what a number of sports fans and writers pull off all the time.
Athletes are not the ones in power here. It's front offices, coaches, sportswriters and fans that make it impossible for an athlete to come out. A homophobe at the locker next to you can't decide to trade you to Oakland or send you down to Wichita. A homophobe at the locker next to you can't write a story for millions to read, doesn't fill out the lineup card, doesn't decide who gets the promotional opportunities and pay raises. Those privileges are reserved to those in positions of power, and the people in those positions are the ones who must bear the responsibility of providing an accepting atmosphere. It would be no different in any other industry: It's not my coworkers that are responsible for assuring that my place of business adheres to antidsicrimination statutes: It's the people in charge. The Nationals received hundreds of millions of District taxpayers to build Nationals Park- tax funds from a locale that has arguably the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT individuals in the country. Given the unique characteristics of the District, it's possible a larger proportion of money from gay fans and taxpayers have gone into Nationals Park than any other ballpark in Major League Baseball. But you won't see us on the field. You won't see us in the dugout. We struggle to get on the damn Kiss Cam. The majority of MLB ballparks are built in cities that, like Washington DC, have laws to prevent anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. How clearly do they need to be in violation of this law for fans to become angry?
So please, for the second year in a row, let me ask you: Don't let this continue to be normal. Ask why Major League Baseball is so far behind the rest of the United States on LGBT equality, and ask yourself how important it is that organizations you support, through your tax dollars and discretionary spending, do not continue to cycle of homophobic abuse that prevents players from fully expressing themselves and living the lives they deserve to lead.