Many sports teams will go even further, with everything from rainbow flags on display at the stadium and the scoreboard, the local Gay Men’s Chorus singing the national anthem and even halftime drag performances. All sorts of ways to bring a bit of LGBTQ+ culture and community support to Pride Night.

Unfortunately, not all professional teams have joined in the parade here. Speaking from personal experience, I have attended 2 Pride Nights recently that, well, didn’t really rise to the occasion. Without naming names, 2 mountain themed, professional teams from Denver hosted their Pride Nights, but you wouldn’t have known it. While yes, they did partner with an LGBTQ+ charity, in this case it was You Can Play and One Colorado, that was the extent of their participation. At the You Can Play night, other than a tiny table set up near the designated Pride section there was no indication that it was a special night. No rainbows, no gay men’s chorus, no drag queens, not even a mention on the scoreboards or from the announcers about the event. The other didn’t even have a table! No recognition whatsoever that the event was anything other than a regular game.

So, where was the Pride in the Pride Night? Other than a slightly increased presence of people in the crowd wearing rainbow shirts, the Pride at Pride Night was noticeably absent. Are these professional sports teams afraid of alienating their traditionally conservative audiences by choosing a single occasion in which to recognize their LGBTQ+ fans? Are we running the risk of having the game filled with homophobic chants, boos or other insults? One can’t help but wonder too, if it’s all about the money. Trying to bring on a potential new audience market without alienating the current one for nothing else than to sell more tickets. Are the teams afraid that any mention of anything LGBTQ+ will invoke a negative response from their fans? If they do, they will certainly know how we feel and maybe even start to understand why “Pride Nights” and other LGBTQ+ pride events are still important, even in 2018.

While the major sports leagues (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLS and MLB) have certainly been stepping up their ga(y)me (pun intended) including active sponsorships of LGBTQ+ sporting events, participation in Pride festival, select sports teams who go all out for Pride Night and continuing support for their local communities. There’s still a lot of progress to make from the individual sports teams to really embrace their LGBTQ+ fans.

By Dirk Smith