The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was at the center of an ugly incident which happened Saturday night. Invited to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at Petco Park during Out at the Park night, their chorus was replaced with a recording of a woman signing, and nobody stopped it. They were led off the field afterward while being taunted by homophobic fans in the stands with “you sing like a girl”…
The SDGMC statement:
“What should have been a night of joy and celebration at Petco Park last night, instead turned into a nightmare raising serious questions about homophobia within the San Diego Padres organization and its relationship with the LGBT community.
Before the start of the last night’s San Diego Padres game, 100 volunteer singers of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus took to the field to proudly sing the National Anthem. Instead, in front of the large crowd gathered for the LA Dodgers game, the San Diego Padres played the recorded voice of a woman singing the anthem.
No attempt was made to stop the recording and start over. No announcement of apology was made to the singers or their friends and families in the stands. No attempt to correct the situation occurred other than to force the 100 men to stand in the spotlight of center field for the song’s duration and then be escorted off the field to the heckles of baseball fans shouting homophobic taunts including “You sing like a girl.”
This incident followed several days of troubling comments and behavior within the San Diego Padres organization. Three days before the game, San Diego Padres representatives aggressively sought to prevent singers from performing the National Anthem unless they purchased a ticket to the game—even if they did not plan to stay for the game—which was not part of any previous discussion or written or verbal agreement and would have cost the small, community-based non-profit thousands of dollars. The demand eventually was rescinded on Friday following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.
With this as background, we call on the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball to immediately launch a full and transparent investigation into the incident to determine if someone or some people intentionally engaged in anti-gay discrimination or a hate crime by playing a female’s voice to represent a group of gay men with the purpose of denigrating and/or ridiculing gay men. The historic significance of such an act is not lost on the LGBT community—especially in relation to professional sports—and added to the depth of embarrassment experienced by the singers and their families.
We also call upon the City of San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission to independently investigate this incident to determine if members of the San Diego Padres organization engaged in activity in violation of the San Diego Human Rights Ordinance or engaged in any deliberate hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
We applaud San Diego Padres President and Chief Executive Office Mike Dee for reaching out to our organization to apologize and to offer to meet with LGBT leaders to discuss the incident. We look forward to this meeting. We believe it is important to work together with the San Diego Padres organization to build bridges within the LGBT community rather than burn them down as happened last night.
However, we are very disappointed with the San Diego Padres dismissively brief two sentence statement at 9:37 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2016 which did not appropriately address the gravity of the situation nor pay due to the 100 volunteers who took to the field in celebration and were led off in humiliation.”
The Padres issued a one-paragraph statement during Saturday night’s game to apologize for the incident:
“This evening, during the pregame ceremony, a mistake was made in the Petco Park control room that prevented the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus from performing the National Anthem as scheduled. We apologize to anyone in the ballpark who this may have offended, and have reached out to the Chorus to express our deep regret for the error.”
Executive Director of San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, Bob Lehman, said the following about the incident,
“The area we were walking by was around the Western Metal Building as that’s where we lined up. I’m not sure which fans were seated in that area. But I can assure you, based on many emails and personal conversations, that our guys heard the comments and it was devastating. Maybe the people who didn’t hear the comments were too far away…also I know some of our guys were a bit in shock at the time. I know I was.As for being attacked on a homophobic level, yes, definitely hearing people say we, a group of gay men, sang like girls is a homophobic statement.“
Openly gay former Padres player Billy Bean, now Major League Baseball’s vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, has released a statement regarding the incident,
“This past Saturday night, it was very unfortunate that there was a technical error during the National Anthem at Petco Park. However, I want to convey that my former team, the San Diego Padres, has supported our inclusion message at MLB without hesitation, even before my return to baseball in 2014. They have led by example by inviting me, numerous times, to speak with their players and employees. I have also worked very closely with their owner, Ron Fowler, and team CEO Mike Dee, and I can assure you that they have made every effort to include the LGBT community and champion equality in MLB for each and every one of us. I’m so proud of the Padres organization for hosting an LGBT Pride event during the season, and I would hope that our community recognizes that error and intent are not related.”
The Padres have reportedly extended another offer to perform and have reached out to meet with the group.
As a matter of gay history, Billy Bean is the only openly gay Major League Baseball player (current or former) alive today. From 1987 to 1995, he played for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres.