The rapid mainstreaming of homosexuality now has a powerful ally, whose most important employees could find themselves choosing between their consciences and their careers. Professional sports, both individual teams and entire leagues, seek to enhance their brands by connecting promotions with the LGBT movement’s Pride campaign. Teams organize “Pride Nights,” including rainbow-themed merchandise, not only as marketing tools but as signs of their acquiescence to leftist views of social justice.
The National Basketball Association embraces those views. The league and its subsidiary, the Women’s National Basketball Association, became the first professional leagues to have a float in New York’s Pride March. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver not only stood on the float this year but waved a rainbow flag and threw themed towels to the crowd. Some attendees wore black T-shirts with the NBA emblem or team emblems in rainbow colors, which were sold through the NBA’s website.
Silver demonstrated his commitment in July 2016 by moving the 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans from Charlotte after the North Carolina legislature passed a measure that included prohibiting transsexuals from using public restrooms not corresponding to their biological sex. Two months later, the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference moved scheduled championship events out of the state. One week before Silver’s appearance at the Pride March, baseball’s New York Mets staged their own “Pride Night,” complete with a color guard carrying a rainbow flag and scoreboard videos of same-sex couples in the stands kissing.
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The United States Soccer Federation had the national women’s team wear jerseys with rainbow-decorated numerals for June matches in Norway and Sweden. Two of the team’s biggest stars, Megan Rapinoe and the now-retired Abby Wambach, are lesbians.
One Christian athlete, however, took exception. Jaeline Hinkle, a defender for the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League, who played for the United States eight times, left the national team for “personal reasons,” a release stated, two weeks after the federation announced its plan for the jerseys. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Hinkle wrote this tweet: “This world is falling farther and farther away from God… All that can be done by believers is to continue to pray.”
Hinkle elaborated on her Instagram page: “I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. It’s not a fictional book. It’s not a pick and choose what you want to believe. … My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. That through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ.”
Hinkle’s position creates a dilemma for Christians in professional sports: Should openly Christian athletes capitulate to the mores of the current Zeitgeist or risk confrontation with the fans and the teams that pay their salaries?
‘An Obligation to Stand for What I Believe Is Right’
Lance Berkman, an outspoken evangelical during his baseball career, also confronted that dilemma. Berkman, who played nearly 11 seasons for the Houston Astros, made advertisements in 2015 against that city’s Proposition 1. That measure, which gave special legal preferences based on sexual practices, also could be used to require transsexuals to use restrooms of their choice. Proposition 1 lost 61 percent to 39 percent.
“All of the stuff that is good about the ordinance is already protected federally, so what’s the point of foisting this ordinance on our city?” Berkman told Houston radio host Michael Berry. ”The only answer that I could come up with it that it’s an LGBT-agenda type of thing. I’m not (for) depriving anybody of their civil rights. But by the same token, the ordinance is so poorly written.”
Why would a retired player even bother? “First of all, as a Christian, I feel like I have an obligation to take a stand for what I believe is right,” Berkman told Berry. “I’m not about pushing my belief system on other people. But I am about articulating my belief system and taking a stand on it when I have the opportunity.”
Two years later, Berkman’s stance still reverberates. The St. Louis Cardinals received criticism for allowing Berkman, who played two years for them, to speak at that team’s “Christian Day” on July 30, three weeks before the club’s “Pride Night.”
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Landon Brownfield, co-chairman of PrideCenter of St. Louis, said in a statement that his organization offered to help the Cardinals “promote love, diversity, and inclusion” while calling Berkman “an individual whose words and actions towards the LGBTQ+ are divisive and demeaning.”
A writer for SB Nation’s “Beyond the Box Score” expressed her opposition more emphatically.
“The Cardinals hosting a pride night while continuing to support Berkman is the ultimate ‘sorry if you were offended’ non-apology,” Mary Craig wrote. “[T]hey are telling all of their LGBT fans that they are unwelcome in the Cardinals community, that what so many view as an escape or as a way to cope with the hatred they face is now yet another place telling them they shouldn’t exist.”
Contrast that opinion of Berkman’s remarks with his comments to Berry.
“Anything short of a full condemnation of Berkman’s stance on LGBT issues is an open endorsement of them and a message to the LGBT community that the Cardinals do not care about them except as PR devices,” Craig continued. “There is no such thing as toleration when it forces you to shake hands with a bigot. It should not be up to LGBT youth to constantly reach across the aisle to make peace with people who view their existence as a perceived threat while actually threatening LGBT people.”
Craig’s comments reflect the hysterical, self-righteous propaganda undergirding the LGBT movement. Thoughtful opposition is forbidden. Personal reservations are forbidden. Even legitimate questions about societal consequences are forbidden. The message is clear: Conform or else.