How Athletes Who Are Allies Are Responding to Pride Month Backlash

"There is no reason to make anybody feel like they’re less than, or that they’re marginalized," says NY Mets outfielder Mark Canha

Mark Canha #19 of the New York Mets runs to first on an RBI single in the seventh during the game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium on Saturday, June 11, 2022 in Anaheim, California.
"It is really hard for me to understand how you can not say you’re an LGBTQ+ ally," says Mets outfielder Mark Canha.
Katelyn Mulcahy/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Earlier this month a number of Tampa Bay Rays players ripped off rainbow-colored logos on their hats during a game that was also a celebration of “Pride Night.” The players later cited religious beliefs as the reason behind their decision.

Unfortunately, it sounds like more than five players in Major League Baseball might also not be so accepting, at least according to New York Mets outfielder Mark Canha. “I would like to sit here and say, ‘Oh we should have a discussion,’” Canha told SNY. “’The more we talk about it, the more we have open discussions about it, the faster that will lead to progress.’ But I think it’s going to be a slow burn in this case, because I think I’m probably in the minority here in saying I’m an ally to that community.” And he emphasized that he feels it’s this way not just in the Mets clubhouse, but “any” MLB clubhouse.

Interestingly, Canha — an outspoken ally who does note his background growing up in the Bay Area and going to Cal-Berkeley gave him a different perspective (“[Where I came from], you would be in the minority if you weren’t an ally to the LGBTQ+ community”) — seemed to wrestle with what the right response should be. He both suggested the right call wasn’t to call everybody out, but also suggested that you actually should be combative to support a marginalized community.

“The best way to put it is, we’re not going to solve the problem in [baseball],” he admitted while adding, “There is no reason to make anybody feel like they’re less than, or that they’re marginalized — especially the people who statistically are marginalized in this country.”

Canha’s frustration (he admitted the whole Rays situation made him “angry”) is also apparent in other athletes recently, who have seemed surprised to be subjected to criticism and vitriol for supporting Pride Month. But there are constructive ways allies in sports can respond; Chicago White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks, for example, made Pride Month a point of his contract negotiations (“I don’t want to go necessarily to a team that doesn’t do it”).

MMA fighter Jeff Molina actually took the more combative route. Facing backlash for supporting the Pride gear the UFC was offering this month, he spent over two minutes at a press conference railing against those critics. “I just thought in 2022 people would be a little more open-minded and not pieces of sh*t,” he said. “But I guess I was wrong.” He even noted that it wasn’t about being an “ally” (“I’m not saying I’m not”) but it was about being a “decent f*cking person.”

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