"There were cops on Segways trying to keep the game-bound Twins fans who were driving across the route — and who might have wondered whether they had driven into an adults-only Disney production — from running the revelers over."
- Beth Hawkins, MinnPost
What do the Minnesota Twins have to do with this past weekend's Pride Festival? That's a great question.
Years ago, I wrote an essay that recapped the Boston Red Sox celebrating their World Series championship by partnering with the cast of 'Queer Eye For the Straight Guy' for opening day festivities in 2005. In researching the article, I'd discovered that the Twins were much more involved in promotions involving the gay and lesbian community back in the 1970s than they were these days.
Here we are, years later, and not much seems to have changed. At the end of an entire week of Pride festivities, and on the same day that downtown Minneapolis was hosting the annual Pride parade (and the Seattle Mariners became the first major North American sports franchise to fly the Pride flag during a game), the Twins were hosting their 10th annual Armed Forces Appreciation Day.
While the Twins have made noises about being inclusive and reaching out to the GLBT community, their actual performance is pretty hit-or-miss:
- In June of 2011, around the same time as a fairly well-publicized incident where a security guard at Target Field chastised a lesbian couple for kissing during the game, the Twins announced they would be contributing a video to the 'It Gets Better' campaign, a campaign focused on communicating to bullied and ostracized gay, lesbian, and transgender teenagers that things do 'get better'. When the Twins finally released their video in September of 2012, the video conspicuously omitted mentions of GLBT-rights issues considered central to the campaign; Twins PR director Kevin Smith said at the time that the Twins were distancing themselves from 'It Gets Better' creator Dan Savage for making anti-Bible comments.
- The Twins have hosted "Out in the Stands" nights inviting GLBT fans to come to the game, but the scheduling of those events has been scattershot at best -- last year's game was in August during a homestand with the Tigers, while the previous years events in Target Field were held in late July. More significantly, the 'event' appears to pretty much consist of a block of tickets given to Lavender magazine, a local GLBT publication; the Twins themselves seem to do little to no publicity for the event, and it's difficult to distinguish the event from numerous other bulk-ticket corporate events held at the ballpark during the season.
- On the official Twins website, there is a section dedicated to 'Diversity' where the Twins mention the awards they've received for their charitable efforts on behalf of minority communities. Though the Twins have twice been recognized by the Black Data Processing Association for their efforts to increase the number of persons of color in the computer science and information technology fields, there is no recognition or award listed on the site as coming from a GLBT organization.
The irony is that Minneapolis has consistently been very highly rated on GLBT inclusiveness in government and social acceptance; we've consistently ranked ahead of San Francisco on these scales. You might think that an organization that prides itself on community involvement would want to be more involved with such a high-profile community, especially given the numerous historic events related to GLBT marriage rights in the past year. Then again, the quote from Ms. Hawkins's news article makes a good point -- the assumption is that Twins fans don't necessarily even understand GLBT culture (and they're not the only ones -- after all, Stephen Colbert recently joked that he thought the 'BT' in GLBT stood for 'bacon and tomato?'), so why risk alienating them by recognizing the history being celebrated just two streets over?
You'd think Twins fans would deserve better, though many might not even worry about demanding better.