There’s no bigotry in baseball.
That’s the message the Staten Island Yankees sent fans this week after it cancelled a planned partnership with Chick-fil-A over its donations to anti-LGBTQ+ groups. The controversy began in April when the minor league team — which competes at the Short-Season A — announced that a lucky fan would receive a free chicken sandwich courtesy of the fast food chain every time one of its players scored a home run.
In a statement released at the time, the local Chick-fil-A franchisee hoped the deal would have a “positive influence on the Staten Island community,” while the Staten Island Yankees referred to it as a “match made in heaven.”
The local LGBTQ+ community wasn’t as thrilled.
After the promotion was announced, the Pride Center of Staten Island claimed it would cease all future communications with the team, effectively ending an annual Pride Night held at Richmond County Bank Ballpark since 2015.
The community center also encouraged its LGBTQ+ clients to reconsider attending Staten Island Yankees games in the future.
“If you are a part of the LGBTQ community, have friends and/or family or an ally to the community, I would ask you to seriously consider your decision supporting the Staten Island Yankees,” Executive Director Carol Bullock said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. “This is disgraceful.”
Chick-fil-A has faced calls for a boycott from LGBTQ+ people since 2012, when CEO Dan Cathy professed his belief in the “biblical definition of the family unit” in a controversial interview with Baptist Press. The company also donated millions to anti-LGBTQ+ groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Focus on the Family, and the now defunct ex-gay organization Exodus International.
While Chick-fil-A pledged it would no longer fund groups opposed to LGBTQ+ equality, the company has not followed through on that pledge. Earlier this year, ThinkProgress reported that it donated more than $1.6 million to anti-LGBTQ+ groups in 2017.
Those revelations led the San Antonio City Council to ban Chick-fil-A from opening a franchise at its local airport, before Texas lawmakers intervened by passing a law that prevented state and local authorities from taking “adverse action” against individuals based on their donations to, membership in, or support for religious groups.
Following conversations with the Pride Center about Chick-fil-A’s record of anti-LGBTQ+ actions, GayCityNews reported the Staten Island Yankees would be pulling the plug on the Chick-fil-A deal.
Bullock confirmed the Pride Night — set for August 30 — would go on as planned.
“I received communication from them that they ended their partnership prior to the end of the contract period,” she told the New York City LGBTQ+ newspaper. “For us, the point was any organization that continues to partner with another organization that works against everything that we do is doing the same thing.”
Although the Staten Island Yankees have declined to comment on the report, the Pride Center confirmed the Chick-fil-A promotion had been canceled in an email to Out.
“[T]he Pride Center applauds the Staten Island Yankees for stopping the promotion of Chick-fil-A,” the organization said in a statement. “Our community and allies fight hard every day for equality and inclusion. Any partnership between one organization and an organization that chooses to work against us is, in fact, supporting discriminatory and exclusionary philosophies.”
As a token of its renewed commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, players with the Staten Island Yankees will reportedly wear rainbow stripes during the Pride Night game. The idea was put forward during a “brainstorming session” with the advocacy group You Can Play earlier this year, as GayCityNews reports.
“I never thought I would get a yes, but I got an immediate yes,” Sarah Kogod, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ organization, told the publication. “It was such a no brainer for them.”
The New York Yankees — of which the Staten Island Yankees are an affiliate — had never hosted a Pride Night for the LGBTQ+ community until this year, when it announced a Legacy of Pride game held on June 25. The team also rolled out its new Yankees-Stonewall Scholarship to honor the 50th anniversary of the influential gay bar riots in New York City’s West Village.