Like teams around the country, during baseball games camera crews for the New York Mets have a tradition of scanning the crowd for couples to show on the Jumbotron, prompting them to kiss on-camera and the stadium to swoon.
But New York's Citi Field has long had its own unique — and many say, homophobic — version of the famed Kiss Cam. After spotlighting three or four opposite-sex couples couples, the camera turns to two male players from the opposing team, waiting for the crowd to roar with laughter. The joke, apparently, is the very idea of two men kissing.
After grimacing at the practice all season long, Mets fan Etan Bednarsh had enough of the homophobic "joke" in April. That's when he tweeted at the Mets: “Putting two men together on the kiss cam isn’t a punch line. I want to keep coming to games. Please stop doing this.”
The tweet was ignored. According to Bednarsh, the so-called joke continued at games throughout the season. Every time he witnessed it, Bednarsh tweeted at the Mets, asking the club to stop the practice, often from his stadium seat.
"I'm just a fan who loves going to the games, and honestly I hate seeing this kind of latent homophobia that really has no place in a baseball game," Bednarsh told Huffpost Live in a recent interview.
Before long, other fans joined in, speaking out againt the tasteless joke via Twitter, calling the Mets "homophobic" "imbeciles," "stupid," "anti-gay," and telling them to "grow the fuck up." As the growing cascade of tweets was met with silence from the Mets organization, Bednarsh tracked the outrage on Twitter, commenting that the "jokes" were "absolutely inexcusable."
The homophobic Kiss Cam gag continued until Bednarsh was invited to speak on Huffpost Live's show "Queerview" last month. In preparation for the show, Huffpost Live reached out to the Mets about what fans were saying. A spokesperson for the Mets responded swiftly, with an answer Bednarsh had been requesting for months:
"We have, on occasion, included players from opposing teams in our popular in-game Kiss Cam feature. While intended to be lighthearted, we unintentionally offended some. We apologize for doing so and no longer will include players in the feature. Our organization is wholly supportive of fostering an inclusive and respectful environment at games."
Bednarsh first learned of the team's response on his Huffpost Live segment. With the homophobic jokes permanently called "out," Bednarsh is now asking the club to start including same-sex couples on the kiss cam sincerely.
"I've never seen a same-sex couple put on the kiss cam in a genuine way," he told Huffpost Live. "And it's New York City. There's no shortage of same-sex couples sitting at the stadium. ... I've seen on Twitter gay couples tweet to get on the Kiss Cam and they'll never put them on genuinely, only for a joke."
Should the Mets feature same-sex couples on the in-game Kiss Cam, the team would join others Major League Baseball teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, who recently put a same-sex couple on the hot seat for its Kiss Cam segment, and recieved thunderous applause when the men shared a smooch. After the fact, the husbands, who've been together for nearly 20 years, told The Advocate that the crowd's warm reaction was "unexpected, and beautiful, and affirming."
And as far back as 2011, the Dodgers' rivals, the San Francisco Giants, spotlighted a same-sex kiss during a game for LGBT Night Out at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
Watch Bednarsh's Huffpost Live interview below.