Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have received criticism, including from LGBTQ avocates, for inviting former slugger Lance Berkman to “Christian Day” at Busch Stadium, scheduled for July 30.
In September 2015, Berkman foolishly advocated against public accommodations for transgender people to use public bathrooms. In an ad in which he appeared, Berkman referred to transgender people as “troubled men.” He fearmongered, suggesting that transgender people would violate women’s privacy and lead to violence. However, there have been no documented cases of transgender people attacking people in public restrooms, contrary to what some pundits would have you believe.
Berkman spoke to Craig the next month and said, “To me, tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything.”
So, Berkman’s track record on LGBTQ issues isn’t exactly sterling. It was no surprise, then, that Pride Center of St. Louis issued a public statement, via OutSports, which read:
Pride St. Louis is disappointed by the decision of the St. Louis Cardinals to provide a public platform for Berkman, an individual whose words and actions towards the LGBTQ+ are divisive and demeaning. We know that the Cardinals can do better, and we want to extend an offer to help them by co-organizing their official LGBT Pride Night at Busch Stadium. Let’s work together to promote love, diversity, and inclusion.
The Cardinals issued a statement of their own, defending their choice to invite Berkman:
The Cardinals have hosted a Christian Day at the ballpark for nearly three decades. Lance Berkman participated in Christian Day when he was a Cardinals player, and we welcome him back this year to discuss his faith.
The Cardinals said they will also host a Pride Night “later this season.” Vice president Ron Watermon said he hopes the night will be scheduled by late August.
It’s one thing to allow two different groups to have their own themed events at the ballpark; it’s another to invite a public figure who actively denounces members of other groups. For a silly hypothetical example, let’s say the Cardinals will also host Cats Night and Dogs Night. Both can peacefully coexist. But if the Dogs invite a figure who’s incredibly anti-Cat and questions the Cats’ right to exist in public, then the Cats don’t feel included and supported even if they’re given their own themed night. The Cardinals are a business, and in going through with inviting Berkman, they are risking alienating the section of their fan base that also intersects with LGBTQ. They have every right to continue to invite Berkman, but fans also have every right to speak with their wallets by not showing up at the ballpark and buying merchandise. Is it worth it? I guess we’ll find out.