On Saturday, May 21 the San Diego Padres held their annual OUT at the Park celebration and invited members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (SDGMC) to sing the National Anthem. Unfortunately, instead of being the fun celebration Padres’ LGBT fans have come to expect, the evening was ruined for many due to a technical glitch or deliberate humiliation, depending on your point of view.
With 100 volunteer chorus members assembled on the field to sing the Star-Spangled Banner, suddenly over the Petco Park’s loud speakers a woman’s voice began to sing the anthem. No attempt was made to stop the recording (reported to be made by the person who had sung it the night before). Instead, the chorus members were made to stand in center field for the entire song and were then escorted off the field to homophobic taunts from the crowd, including, “You sing like a girl.”
There was also no apology immediately given by the Padres, and a short two sentence statement they made on Saturday night didn’t feel fully addressed the incident, according to the SDGMC, making it a real sticking point for chorus members.
The Saturday night statement from the Padres said the following: “This evening, during the pregame ceremony, a mistake was made in the Petco Park control room that prevented the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus from performing the national anthem as scheduled,” the Padres said in a statement. “We apologize to anyone in the ballpark who this may have offended, and have reached out to the chorus to express our deep regret for the error.”
However, the club issued the following statement on Sunday night. “After a thorough examination of the events that occurred during last night’s National Anthem we have concluded our internal investigation and have found no evidence of malicious intent on the part of any individuals involved.
Based both on the unintentional mistake that was made, as well as the failure to immediately intervene and correct the situation by those who had oversight, we have terminated our relationship with the third-party contractor who was responsible for the error, and taken disciplinary action against our employee who was responsible for the game production on Saturday.
We once again sincerely apologize to members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, their families and those who came out to support their pride night performance. The Padres organization is proud of our longstanding commitment to inclusion – within both our sport and our community.
We deeply regret that a mistake on our part has called this into question, but accept full responsibility.”
Major League Baseball’s (MLB) vice president of social responsibility Billy Bean also issued a statement about his former team’s gaffe, saying “This past Saturday night, it was very unfortunate that there was a technical error during the National Anthem at Petco Park. However, I want to convey that my former team, the San Diego Padres, has supported our inclusion message at MLB without hesitation, even before my return to baseball in 2014.
“They have led by example by inviting me, numerous times, to speak with their players and employees. I have also worked very closely with their owner, Ron Fowler, and team CEO Mike Dee, and I can assure you that they have made every effort to include the LGBT community and champion equality in MLB for each and every one of us. I’m so proud of the Padres organization for hosting an LGBT Pride event during the season, and I would hope that our community recognizes that error and intent are not related.”
While at first glance some thought the chorus reaction was a bit overboard, chorus executive director Bob Lehman lengthy statement posted on the organization’s Facebook page on Sunday, said in part that “This incident followed several days of troubling comments and behavior within the San Diego Padres organization. Three days before the game, San Diego Padres representatives aggressively sought to prevent singers from performing the National Anthem unless they purchased a ticket to the game—even if they did not plan to stay for the game—which was not part of any previous discussion or written or verbal agreement and would have cost the small, community-based non-profit thousands of dollars. The demand eventually was rescinded on Friday following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.”
Lehman asked for a full and transparent investigation to determine whether or not the act was “anti-gay discrimination or a hate crime by playing a female’s voice to represent a group of gay men with the purpose of denigrating and/or ridiculing gay men. The historic significance of such an act is not lost on the LGBT community—especially in relation to professional sports—and added to the depth of embarrassment experienced by the singers and their families.”
The Padres tweeted that they have offered the chorus an opportunity to return. But in the meantime, MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney has told USA Today that the league is investigating the incident to determine whether or not there was any malicious intention involved. Padres president Mike Dee has also told the paper that, “Based on our internal investigation, and our decisive actions yesterday, we are eager for all the facts surrounding this unfortunate incident to come forward.”
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