Sports pride celebrations must go beyond rainbows and promises

The NFL unveiled a “Pride” themed shield to show its “support and solidarity” with the LGBTQ community. The San Francisco Giants hosted a pride day on Saturday, becoming the first major league team to wear the pride colors on their uniforms and will soon be selling the same field hats the players wore. Pac-12 celebrated Pride Month by announcing a partnership with LGBT SportsSafe to help create “a culture of respect and inclusion”.

In American sports, like most American businesses, Pride Month seems to have turned into a checkbox. In many ways, that’s a good thing: it raises awareness and makes a positive statement.

But is there any real conviction behind the multitude of rainbow flags? Or is it a cynical attempt to take advantage of a segment of the community that is not supported by the action?

Let’s start with the Giants. I don’t find their pride celebrations suspicious. The organization has taken a leadership role, dating back to its ‘Til There’s a Cure Day’ campaign for AIDS awareness in Candlestick Park and its ‘It Gets Better’ campaign ten years ago. Profits from Saturday’s game against the Cubs will go to SF Pride. The team have a historic investment in inclusion issues and are a leader in baseball (unlike that with the Texas Rangers next week’s opponent, who stubbornly remain the only major league team never to organize. Pride event).

“It’s not like we’ve suddenly jumped on the bandwagon,” said Staci Slaughter, executive vice president of the Giants. “Our history and our work in this area speak for themselves. We represent the values ​​of the San Francisco community, and the LGBTQ community is an integral part of that. “

Confetti flies and the Trans and Gay Pride flags are hoisted in Oracle Park ahead of a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in San Francisco, California.D. Ross Cameron / Special for The Chronicle

But the main owner of the Giants is Charles Johnson, a billionaire conservative donor who funds many politicians who work hard to fight LGBTQ inclusion and equality. Johnson, according to a report from last fall, accounted for 32% of all sports property donations to Republican causes since 2015.

According to the Giants, an unspecified “portion” of the proceeds from future cap sales will go to LGBTQ charities, but the Giants will keep some of it. So somewhere there is a lag in buying a pride-themed cap to represent the team while potentially contributing to the Giants’ coffers and therefore Johnson’s portfolio of assets.

The NFL’s New Push for Inclusion? Is it like carbon offsetting for the millions its owners have paid out to Conservative candidates over the years, funds that have gone directly to those working against LGBTQ issues?

The Pac-12, in its Pride Month release, said it was the first Power Five conference to be “all-in on inclusion” and that it would work with student-athletes to “To ensure that all members of this invisible minority community feel seen, heard and supported.

But the Pac-12 is part of the NCAA. And while the NCAA Board of Governors in April warned states weighing the bills of anti-trans athletes that they could lose their ability to host events, that threat appeared to be just a bark and no bite.

Since the NCAA threat, the organization has hosted softball playoffs in Florida, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee. The World Series of softball is held in Oklahoma. This weekend, the NCAA is hosting regional baseball tournaments in Texas, Arkansas and Florida. These are all states that have signed or are working on bills against transgender athletes.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill against transgender athletes – his performative way of kicking off pride month – and laughed at the NCAA warning. (Johnson, the owner of the Giants, donated to DeSantis when he ran for the US Senate in 2015 before retiring from the race, according to FEC documents.)

Chris Mosier, a transgender athlete and activist, tweeted, “Your actions speak louder than your words @NCAA: you are not protecting the rights of trans and non-binary athletes to participate. “

A spokesperson for Pac-12, in response to an emailed question, said Pac-12 opposes all anti-transgender bills and laws and has worked closely with the University of Utah to defeat such a bill in Utah last February (a similar bill has since been introduced in Arizona). The spokesperson said that jurisdiction over NCAA events rests solely with the NCAA and each Pac-12 school can decide whether or not to participate.

On its website, the NCAA lists LGBTQ resources and states that “as a core value – the NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equality” among its members. If we’re supposed to believe it, the NCAA has some work to do before it hosts three next Final Fours in Texas and Arizona (2023, ’24, and ’25).

The Rainbow NFL has a Super Bowl slated for Arizona in 2023.

The NBA helped overturn, in part, a North Carolina “toilet bill” – a precursor to these anti-transgender bills – by moving its All-Star Game from Charlotte in 2017. Utah Jazz has warned that if the Utah bill passes it could cost the state the 2023 All-Star Game. Will other sports organizations try to fight for change? Are they going to leverage all the tourism dollars and the economic boost their events provide to local economies in an effort to fight hate?

These are the big economic questions that arise when placing a rainbow flag on a product. Former Warriors president Rick Welts believes the recognition of Pride Month is an important step forward.

“Men’s professional sport always lags behind women’s sport and society at large,” said Welts, who was the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade Grand Marshal. “What leagues, teams, players and coaches do and say with their platform is influential and noticed.

” Everybody is welcome here. “

We hope. And that it’s not about putting rainbow flags on a product and embracing the polish of inclusion just because it’s June.

Ann Killion is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @annkillion

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