While supporting Christian universities, Rangers remain silent on Pride rationale

While supporting Christian universities, Rangers remain silent on Pride rationale

While supporting Christian universities, Rangers remain silent on Pride rationale

The Texas Rangers baseball team, intentional or not, may have become pro-Christian in the Culture Wars.

Professional athletes who are also strong in their religious convictions in recent years have found themselves in conflict with efforts to support LGBTQ+ initiatives by their particular sports leagues.

Jesus Christ calls for love, respect and dignity for all people but does not call for acceptance and celebration of all lifestyles. Some athletes of faith believe their leagues' approach to inclusivity for the LBGTQ+ community puts them in direct contradiction with personal beliefs.

The Rangers, a member of Major League Baseball's AL West, are one of the few American professional sports franchises that have not dedicated one or more of their games to support LBGTQ+. They've not made their reasons clear.

Last June five Tampa Bay Rays pitchers declined to wear special team uniforms adorned with rainbow imaging for the team's Pride game. The players wore the Rays' regular jerseys and caps instead.

The National Hockey League has made headlines of late while it grapples with how to approach "Pride" nights as players have opted out, and teams have scaled back celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community.

The blowback from some NHL players hasn't been only about faith but also about some players from other countries who are concerned for their families and themselves should they be found in violation of their country's "anti-gay" laws.

However, NHL officials recently told The Athletic the league had found nothing to suggest its Russian players would be at risk by participating in Pride nights.

In all, six NHL players recently opted out of wearing rainbow-colored jerseys on their teams' Pride nights for the first time, leading the league's commissioner to say it is weighing the future of the events.

This season, three NHL teams — the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild — that previously wore rainbow warmups decided not to. The Rangers and Wild changed course after initially planning for players to wear rainbow-themed warmup jerseys but did not specifically say why.

Evaluating Pride in off-season

Between the players opting out and the team decisions, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will "evaluate" in the off-season how it handles Pride nights moving forward, calling the refusals a distraction from "the substance of our what our teams and we have been doing and stand for." Yet he also noted that the NHL, teams and players "overwhelmingly" support Pride nights.

The National Football League and National Basketball Association have also been out front and visible in their support of the Pride movement. For example, in June 2021 during "Pride Month," the NFL released what became known as its "Football is Gay" video on social media.

The core message was one of inclusion saying football is for everyone. In online responses some fans threatened a boycott, but the league enjoyed strong postseason TV ratings in 2022. The second-round game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers drew more than 45 million viewers, the second-largest audience for a Divisional Round game.

The NBA began its Pride Month T-shirt line in 2016.

The Rangers, though, remain the only MLB team without a Pride event and remain quiet about their reasons. Club officials have refused requests for comment to various media outlets, including American Family News.

Instead, the team has often pointed to its other community initiatives.

While it has no Pride game scheduled for 2023, the franchise has been described by a local LBGTQ+ group as a "leader" among North Texas sports teams for its inclusivity efforts. In a 2021 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Rafael McDonnell – a liaison between local pro sports teams and the Resource Center, which serves the LGBTQ+ community in North Texas – said the Rangers have "improved language to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in their hiring practices."

It's Texas MLB rival, the Houston Astros, poked fun at the Rangers by scheduling them for the Astros' Pride game two years ago.

Billy Bean, who was named MLB's Ambassador for Inclusion in 2014, has been a big part of the sport's growing support for LBGTQ+. He told The Dallas Morning News in 2021 that he believed it was "inevitable" that the Rangers would schedule a Pride game.

Yet another season has begun with no mention of Pride among the club's 49 promotional game nights or 27 games honoring special community groups.

Supporting faith-based universities

The Rangers do, however, show support for Christian universities.

In January, the club announced a partnership with Abilene Christian University that will allow players and staff to earn college academic credit in the off-season. It's called RangersU Powered by ACU.

"I think we both just tried to be mutually opportunistic and say, this can be more than just outfield field signage. This can be something that we can build out for our players and with my vision for opportunities for our staff and players," according to Ben Baroody, the Rangers' director of leadership, development and mental performance.

In addition, Abilene Christian, along with Texas Baptist schools Baylor and Hardin-Simmons, each have scheduled community nights this season at the Rangers' home field in Arlington, TX. None of the schools responded to email interview requests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.