After a successful launch and first year for MiLB Pride in 2019, Minor League Baseball and its teams were eager to continue the momentum in year two. While the way MiLB Pride has been celebrated has looked a little different than expected this year, MiLB continues to embrace its fans
After a successful launch and first year for MiLB Pride in 2019, Minor League Baseball and its teams were eager to continue the momentum in year two. While the way MiLB Pride has been celebrated has looked a little different than expected this year, MiLB continues to embrace its fans no matter the circumstances.
Last season, MiLB Pride launched as the largest documented Pride celebration in professional sports. Seventy MiLB teams hosted Pride events, partnering with over 150 local organizations to better serve a community that historically has been marginalized from the sport of baseball. MiLB Pride was a major success, as Pride games saw on average an 8 percent increase in attendance compared to the average game day attendance and teams raised over $40,000 to donate to local LBGTQ+ organizations.
For 2020, more than 80 teams planned to host MiLB Pride-specific games and events. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting sports globally, some activities planned for MiLB Pride had to be adjusted. MiLB Pride is focused on bringing communities together and creating an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome, but current restrictions have limited teams and their abilities to physically create those environments.
Despite physical limitations, teams have remained committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces for their fans. Many teams have taken their activations digital, promoting the message of inclusivity. Teams have shared wallpapers, messages promising revamped efforts in 2021 and offered new Pride merchandise online.
“While we’ve had some challenges this year, I’m proud of the work that Minor League Baseball and our teams have done to remain committed to MiLB Pride,” said Belicia Montgomery, Minor League Baseball’s director of diversity and inclusion. “Minor League Baseball is dedicated to creating safe and accepting environments for everyone to be their authentic selves. Even when games aren’t being played, we work tirelessly to improve ourselves and our communities by being a force for positive change.”
The Albuquerque Isotopes worked with their partners at Albuquerque Pride to create a video for their celebration of Pride this month. The Hartford Yard Goats began selling Pride-themed masks to fans looking to keep themselves safe and celebrate Pride, while the Rochester Red Wings are selling a Pride flag in their team store.
From a national perspective, MiLB also began selling Pride logo shirts this year. All sales of the shirt through July 10 will have 20 percent of the proceeds going to Metro Inclusive Health, a 501(c)(3) organization in the Tampa area that provides health care and wellness services to anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or economic status.
Several teams also joined MiLB in offering part of the proceeds from select Pride merchandise sold through July 10 to organizations in their local communities.
Looking to create a specific day of celebration, support and solidarity across the nation, MiLB and MiLB Pride partner Pride Tape joined forces on June 17 for #StrikeOutHate Day.
"We are very proud to continue to partner with Minor League Baseball for their #StrikeOutHate campaign,” said Jeff McLean, co-founder of Pride Tape. “MiLB and its teams’ passion for making ballparks a safe space for all fans is incredibly inspiring. The strong participation from across the organization to denounce hate and promote inclusivity, especially when play is paused, is a testament to MiLB's unwavering commitment. We are excited to grow this very important initiative for the future."
MiLB teams posted messages of solidarity and unity throughout the day on social media using #StrikeOutHate. The digital campaign showed fans how teams were taking a stand against hate and intolerance.
As part of #StrikeOutHate Day, the Mississippi Braves shared a powerful video speaking out against discrimination and hate that impacts multiple communities, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community.
While Pride Month technically concluded at the end of June, Minor League Baseball’s commitment to MiLB Pride will continue.
“The issues facing the LGBTQ+ community don’t disappear after Pride Month, and neither will we,” Montgomery said. “We are dedicated to being a diverse and inclusive organization year-round. The work never stops, and we will build upon what we’ve learned in the first two years of MiLB Pride. We want all fans to feel welcome in not just our ballparks, but our communities, and that’s the goal we strive for every day.”
Despite the current circumstances facing our country, teams will continue to work on being inclusive and celebrating their fans. Once planning for the 2021 season begins, the lessons learned from past Pride campaigns will be instrumental in uniting fans from all walks of life using the shared love of baseball.
Ben Boynton is Communications Associate, Minor League Baseball