Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Earlier this season, as the Yankees faced mounting criticism for being one of only two MLB teams not to host an LGBTQ Pride Night, something did not add up to me. I knew that Brian Cashman and some of his top lieutenants were relatively progressive on social issues, and had taken meaningful action in the past. It seemed out of character for them to hold out on an LGBTQ issue.
For example, Cashman is the only GM in baseball who has invited gay ex-player Billy Bean to speak to his major league club and entire minor league camp every spring training since MLB hired Bean in 2014. His interest in Bean's work toward making baseball more inclusive is clearly genuine. The Yankees also held a brief on-field ceremony in 2016 to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
But the Yanks are also determined to do things their way, and at their pace. Whether by stubbornness, social conscience -- or, to my eye, a mixture of both -- the team was not going to immediately bow to pressure to fall in line.
But as suspected, they are not sitting on the sidelines, either. According to major league sources, the Yankees have been quietly planning significant events for next season to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a seminal event in both the history of LGBTQ rights and New York City.
While a Yankees spokesman said it was too early to confirm any specifics of the 2019 promotional calendar, other sources said that the team continues to work out details of Stonewall-centered events. Specifics have not been finalized, but I hear that the final plan is likely to include activities both inside and outside the ballpark.
Apparently, the team was engaged in internal discussions about how to hold an LGBTQ-centered event even before the wave of bad press this spring. Its public position was that Yankees did not hold events for any particular group -- no Italian-American Night, for example -- but many officials knew that this was no longer a tenable answer to the Pride question. Others argued that some Pride Nights do not go far enough, and were more marketing events than meaningful engagement in the communities.
That position prevailed, and the Yankees focused on the Stonewall anniversary as a way to push the standard Pride Nights to a deeper level. The Stonewall Riots occurred in late June, 1969, when the community pushed back on police raids of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The violence that followed helped to galvanize the gay rights movement, and create the tradition of Pride parades.
The view from here is that, while the Yankees could make it easier on themselves by simply saying, "sure, we'll become the 30th team to hold a Pride Night," they are attempting something more original, and with more interaction in the community.
Is there a touch of Yankee arrogance in refusing to follow the trend? Sure. But in this case, it seems that the attitude will lead to a positive outcome.