After receiving criticism for being the last Major League Baseball team not to plan a Pride night, the New York Yankees will be developing a series of events next season in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, reports The New York Times.
“The anniversary of Stonewall every year is an emotional and seminal event for LGBT people — not just for those in New York City but around the world,” announced City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who came out as gay to his high school football team 20 years ago. “To have an event in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium is a very special moment, and for me, as a former athlete, I’m going to be really proud to be there.”
Although the team has never hosted a Pride Night event, the Yankees have a history of supporting the LGBTQ community. General Manager Brian Cashman and his assistant general manager, Jean Afterman, have worked with organizations that help gay and trans youth. Gay MLB Executive Billy Bean has been invited to speak with Yankees players about inclusion.
In early June, the Los Angeles Angels announced that it would host a Pride Night, which left the Yankees as the only baseball franchise that had yet to plan a celebration of the queer community. In response, LGBTQ activists and city officials like Johnson began requesting a change from their home team.
“Stonewall is a perfect anniversary to do something special to make up for the fact that they were going to be the last team to hold a Pride event,” Outsports founder Jim Buzinski told the Times. “It’s a good thing. I just hope it’s not a one-off — ‘Well, we did Stonewall at 50 years.’ The big question is, what are they going to do in 2020?”
The Yankees faced controversy during the 2010 playoffs when during the ritual playing of the Village People’s "YMCA," fans taunted the other team by singing “Why are you gay?” to the chorus. After footage of the behavior hit social media, the Yankees tightened security and ended the practice.
"A lot of LGBT people in their childhood or adolescence were ostracized or felt trauma for not being accepted in the locker room or as part of physical education or in playing sports,” Johnson explained to the Times. “That’s why I think these types of events can be healing experiences as it relates to sports and their own identity.”
David Kilmnick, CEO of The LGBT Network, had tried to convince teams to hold a Pride Night at a diversity summit sponsored by Major League Baseball in 2016. The New York Mets agreed; the Yankees refused.
“Some might think of it as a gimmick of sorts, but it’s not,” Kilmnick said, adding that when a rainbow flag is flying, it welcomes LGBTQ people to be openly affectionate towards their partners during a kiss-cam. “It says something to the kids that were there with their families, who leave and go back to their schools. It’s a step to creating safe environments.”