June 6 (UPI) — Several Tampa Bay Rays pitchers cited their religious beliefs as the reason for a decision to opt out of wearing rainbow logos on their hats and uniforms as part of the franchise’s recent Pride Night celebration.
The majority of Rays players sported the apparel on their jersey sleeves and hats for a game against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Left-handed pitchers Brooks Raley and Jalen Beeks were the only two players who participated in the game — a 6-5 loss — who didn’t wear the apparel. Fellow pitchers Jason Adam, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson also didn’t wear rainbow insignias.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Adam, who was chosen as a player spokesman, told reporters. “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.
“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.”
Adam also took to Twitter after the game to defend the decision. He said it was never his intention to “shame anyone.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters in his postgame news conference that the decision did not create division the clubhouse.
“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.”
Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who wore the customized apparel, told the Tampa Bay Times that he couldn’t “speak for everyone,” but he wanted fans to feel welcome.
“We just want everyone to feel welcomed and included and cheer us on,” Kiermaier said. “No matter what your views on anything are.”
Former MLB outfielder Preston Wilson and St. Louis Cardinals star pitcher Jack Flaherty were among those who criticized the player opt-outs on social media. Flaherty called the move an “absolute joke.”
Rays president Matt Silverman also spoke about the matter Sunday in an interview with the New York Times. He said he was “proud of the conversations” the team had surrounding the event.
“I’m proud of the fact we did this and so many of our players chose to wear the logo,” Silverman said. “I’m also proud of the conversations we had during the run-up to this night and in the aftermath. That’s a really good byproduct of this: to be able to actually have these conversations is really valuable and rare.”
Nearly 20,000 fans attended Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg. Members of the LGBTQ community participated in pregame activities. Fans also were given mini LGBTQ flags.
The Rays will host the St. Louis Cardinals at 7:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Saturday marked the Rays’ 16th annual Pride Night celebration.