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Tampa Bay Rays players cite faith to explain concerns about ‘Pride Night’

Rays pitcher Jason Adam said he wants members of the LGBTQ community to feel welcome but that wearing the ‘Pride Night’ logo would have clashed with his faith

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Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jason Adam pitches against the Miami Marlins during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays baseball team celebrated “Pride Night” on Saturday, but several players chose not to wear their support for the LGBTQ community on their sleeve.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson, among others, opted out of the team’s special Pride Night uniforms, which featured rainbow-colored logos on the cap and right sleeve.

Adam told the Times that the players want members of the LGBTQ community to feel welcome at Rays games. They just didn’t want to be forced to wear something that violated their faith, he said.

“It’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different,” Adam said, according to the Times.

Adam’s comments sparked both praise and criticism on social media, as sports writers and others debated whether the players made the right move.

Prominent political commentator Keith Olbermann was among those who denounced the decision. He argued that Adam and other players have the wrong ideas about Jesus.

“Maybe you should read the Bible once or twice,” Olbermann said.

Brent Leatherwood, on the other hand, applauded the players for standing up for what they believe, even though it came at a cost.

“Our culture is loud and noisy. But it shouldn’t be one that drives people to silence or trample their conscience,” said Leatherwood, who serves as acting president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash spoke on the uniform controversy on Sunday, emphasizing that players with varying views on Pride Night had engaged in constructive discussions.

“First and foremost, I think the organization has done a really good thing to have Pride Nights supporting our gay community to come out and have a nice night at the ballpark,” Cash said, according to The Associated Press. “We want to support our players that choose to wear or choose not to wear to the best of our capabilities.”

Recent research from Public Religion Research Institute showed that people of faith are generally just as likely as other Americans to support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. For example, 79% of Black Protestants, 82% of white mainline Protestants and 84% of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints support laws that would protect gay and transgender Americans from discrimination in housing, hiring and public accommodations, compared to 79% of U.S. adults overall.

More conservative faith groups like white evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Christians are the exception to this rule. About 6 in 10 white evangelicals and two-thirds of Orthodox Christians support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, Public Religion Research Institute found.

Several other sports teams and community organizations have Pride events scheduled for the month ahead. June is widely recognized as Pride Month in the U.S.