The Los Angeles Dodgers are facing a great deal of criticism ahead of their upcoming LGBTQ+ Pride Night for the team’s decision to disinvite a group from what is scheduled to be their 10th annual celebration of diversity and inclusion on June 16 at Dodger Stadium.
The club announced Wednesday that it would no longer honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with its Community Hero Award in a pregame ceremony that evening, effectively disinviting the charity, protest and street performance organization that employs humor and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance.
The decision, which has led to several groups pulling out of the event in protest, came about after heavy pressure from conservative Catholic organizations, including the Catholic League and CatholicVote, and after Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred questioning whether the inclusion of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would be “inclusive and welcoming to Christians.”
In announcing their decision, the Dodgers noted that LGBTQ+ Pride Night had “become a meaningful tradition, not only highlighting the diversity and resilience within our fan base, but also the impactful work of extraordinary community groups.” However, the team also said: “Given the strong feelings of those who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.”
By Thursday, what was supposed to be a celebration at Dodger Stadium had become a lightning rod of controversy. And based on the blowback, the force of which caught the organization off guard, the club is working internally on potential compromise solutions, according to a team official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.
What shape the event will take place in light of the various groups dropping out remains to be seen.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center condemned the Dodgers’ decision on Thursday, demanding that the team reverse its stance on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or cancel Pride Night altogether.
In part, the center’s statement read: “Buckling to pressure from out-of-state, right-wing fundamentalists, the Dodgers caved to a religious minority that is perpetuating a false narrative about L.G.B.T.Q.+ people. They have been fed lies about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and have therefore contributed to the ongoing, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. smear campaign happening in this country.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California had announced on Wednesday night that, in unity with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “we will not participate in Pride Night.” The organization pointed out that the Dodgers, who broke baseball’s color line with Jackie Robinson in 1947, had previously been “champions of inclusion.”
And in a third major blow, LA Pride, organizers of the LA Pride Parade and Festival, said on Thursday night that their organization will also not attend the event. The group, which claims to have organized the world’s first permitted parade advocating for gay rights in 1970, said it was “very disappointed” in the team, which it described as a longtime partner.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in 1979 in San Francisco. According to the group’s website, its members have devoted themselves to “community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.” The organization uses “humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
Group members, who describe themselves as “a leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns,” are typically dressed in outfits with religious imagery, like nuns’ habits.
The Los Angeles branch of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who have been actively serving that community’s L.G.B.T.Q. community for 27 years, were going to receive the award from the Dodgers.
In a statement expressing disappointment that the Dodgers were “succumbing to pressure from persons outside of the state of California and outside of our community” and noting that the Dodgers had chosen to “un-ally themselves with us in our ongoing service to the public,” the group went on to say:
“We are both silly and serious. We use our flamboyance in service to our charity work and our message, which is ‘There is room in our world for each person to be who they are, as they are, free from shame or guilt, and alive in love and joy for their own self.’
“We wish to point out that though our L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community is currently being assailed by a small group of extremists attempting to roll back society’s progress, they are a tiny minority and do not represent the majority of Americans’ commitment to a country that lives side by side in our great melting pot.”
For the Dodgers, Pride Night has become a growing and essential component of each season. Last year, for the first time, the Dodgers wore custom-designed, rainbow-colored logo caps for a game during what Eric Braverman, the club’s senior vice-president of marketing, communications and broadcasting, said “has become one of the most anticipated nights of the season.”
Last year’s Pride Night also closed a circle of sorts by honoring Glenn Burke, the first major leaguer to have come out as gay, whom they traded to Oakland in 1978 after he declined the team’s offer to contribute $75,000 toward a very nice honeymoon if he would get married to a woman. The trade did not make sense unless you knew about Burke’s personal life.
Burke was close friends with Tommy Lasorda Jr., who also was gay and died of AIDS complications in 1991. It wasn’t until after Tommy Lasorda, the team’s Hall of Fame manager, died in 2021 that the Dodgers moved to honor Burke on Pride Night. Nevertheless, more than 40 of Burke’s family and friends traveled to Los Angeles for the occasion.
“These celebrations are important,” Billie Jean King, the tennis superstar who is a minority owner of the Dodgers and honorary lifetime president of the Elton John Aids Foundation, told The Times last year. “Just for one moment, you slow down and think about whatever is being celebrated, think about the deeper meaning as well as the fun part.
“There’s a lot to celebrate. But we also need to be very vigilant.”