June is Pride Month, and it should not shock you to learn that Major League Baseball, the pinnacle of our nation’s most carny sport, is almost uniformly on board with holding Pride Nights, if for no other reason than to disingenuously glom onto the goodwill and attendance dollars associated with them.
Here’s the thing, though: even if we are to take these franchises at their most cynical and presume these efforts are purely profit-motivated, LGBTQ+ fans, like every other fanbase, enjoy knowing that their favorite team cares enough about them to do the bare minimum and acknowledge their existence in a sport with a whopping 81 home games per season and a tried-and-true history of attempting just about every manner of sales, promotion, and community outreach tactic imaginable to sell tickets. The particulars of Pride Nights vary depending by team (Outsports compiled a team-by-team breakdown), but they tend to involve a giveaway and a pregame ceremony of some sort—not terribly onerous, which goes a long way toward explaining why 29 of 30 MLB teams now have one.
We’re here because of the 30th, and a story by The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli titled “The Texas Rangers are MLB’s only team without a Pride Night. That’s unlikely to change.” And, in a way, that sums up the whole deal. The Rangers have made at least one gesture toward the community, serving as a co-sponsor of the NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series, which was held in Dallas in 2022. Beyond that, the team, which has been bad about LGBTQ+ issues in months besides June, doesn’t seem terribly inclined to follow the rest of the sport’s lead in this arena.
It does not matter that they put in the work to make similar outreaches to all sorts of groups; as Ghiroli notes, in the span of a week, the team is holding Vegan Night and Abilene Christian University Night (zero shade to our plant-based-dieting or Willie-the-Wildcat-loving readers).
Nor does it matter that the archrival Astros, who were among the last holdouts prior to Texas, got on board in 2021, saw the event grow in 2022, and, per Ghiroli, noted that it “has been a driver of both ticket sales and sponsor revenue, according to people within the organization.”
For whatever reason—Ghiroli’s reporting, in keeping with long-held speculation, points toward ownership—the Rangers are not compelled to join in, and so they won’t. Their statement on the matter, which was also furnished in response to a similar inquiry from the Los Angeles Times last week:
“Our commitment is to make everyone feel welcome and included in Rangers baseball. That means in our ballpark, at every game, and in all we do—for both our fans and our employees. We deliver on that promise across our many programs to have a positive impact across our entire community.”
Whether or not the Rangers consider the issue settled, this bears talking about not just because of the impact it has on fans, who tend to notice when their favorite team is the only one in the entire league that refuses to clear “the lowest freaking bar,” as a former employee says in the piece. Consider these very glaring excerpts on the impact within the organization itself:
“Some, including active Rangers employees who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, feared for their jobs and livelihoods in speaking out.”
“Another former employee who worked on the fan experience side of things said she knew people there who were part of the LGBTQ+ community who didn’t feel comfortable speaking about their orientation at work.”
When your employees work in fear, the issue has graduated beyond mere outreach failure. It should be a capital-P Problem, a sign that whatever victory gained by staying the course is pyrrhic because of its impact on the workplace. Then again, considering this is the same organization that hustled its employees back to the office at the height of the pandemic faster than any other team in baseball (which, predictably enough, precipitated an office outbreak), it’s worth wondering how much a safe workplace environment matters to it in the first place. We know that the team has, for instance, done an admirable job extending grace to Eric Nadel as the legendary announcer remains on a leave of absence from the booth to address mental health issues. But it is hard to square the compassion shown for one employee’s struggles with the apparent indifference to scores more. It is a tacit admission that the organization has no qualms picking and choosing what matters, who matters, or both instead of conveying what should be obvious workplace rights—acceptance, respect, safety—to everyone who walks in the door.
It is a bummer that we need to go here. The Rangers, at long last, are an excellent baseball team once more, and a damn fun one, too. It is way more enjoyable to focus on the product on the field exclusively, and the Rangers would likely prefer all of us to do that. But not everyone who works there has that luxury. Not everyone who roots for them does, either.
Blocking off a few hours on a weeknight in June won’t fix those problems, but it would signify that the team acknowledges that they exist and feigns at least some interest in trying to do the work to improve the situation. And even that faintest gesture would be a step forward from the status quo.