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'Sad and infuriating:' Openly gay pro baseball player speaks out on Rays players' stance

USA TODAY SPORTS 6/7/2022 Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY

Professional baseball player Bryan Ruby, who came out as publicly gay last September, said the decisions of several Tampa Bay Rays players to decline wearing LGBTQ decals on specialized caps on their uniform is a bad look for baseball and an example of why players on current MLB rosters remain closeted. 

Several Rays players, including pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson, declined to wear special caps with a multicolored Tampa Bay logo this past Saturday, opting instead for their standard ones, as the organization celebrated Pride Night against the Chicago White Sox. 

"It sends a very clear message, and that message is: LGBTQ people are not welcome here," Ruby told USA TODAY Sports. "A lot of guys just don’t get that they’ve always had, and will continue to have, gay teammates. Such antiquated language and behavior actively hurts the team. It’s hard enough to be gay in baseball.

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"I can’t help but notice that for the 146th consecutive year, there are zero openly gay players in Major League Baseball. And when your own teammates could publicly gesture that you don’t belong there, it’s damn near impossible to succeed in the sport."

Rays manager Kevin Cash downplayed there being a divide in the team's locker room and supported individual players' beliefs. But Ruby said allowing a lack of unity is contradictory to the organization's seemingly inclusive message. He said a contributing factor to coming out when he was playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes was due to the support he felt from teammates when he was wearing rainbow shoelaces. That wouldn't have happened if he played for the Rays. 

"I wonder if Rays management would parrot their completely bogus message of supporting ‘diversity and inclusivity’ in the organization if Rays players flat out refused to wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson day," said Ruby, who is taking June off before exploring his options for lacing up this summer on pro teams. "Don’t get me wrong, Pride Nights are great for the fan base and surrounding community, but they do very little to address the situation in the locker room."

After coming out in September in a USA TODAY Sports story, Ruby founded Proud To Be In Baseball, a non-profit support group led by Ruby and other publicly out players for closeted athletes to go for consultation and solace. A country music singer-songwriter, Ruby just released a lead single, "Left Field," from the upcoming documentary, "Coming Home."

Billy Bean, the MLB vice president and special assistant to the commissioner, told USA TODAY Sports last fall that several current MLB players have chosen to remain closeted for various fear-driven reasons.

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" When your teammates go out of their way to indicate they don’t accept you, it can be absolutely crushing, and obviously pretty damn hard to suit up and play well," Ruby said. "What does it say to all the young minor leaguers dreaming of one day getting a shot in the big leagues? That once you get there, you can live  your dream but only at the cost of hiding your authentic self from the world? It’s both sad and infuriating to know most other guys like me are relegated to walking on eggshells in the shadows of a culture still eerily reminiscent of the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ world we supposedly moved on from over a decade ago."

Adam, the Rays' pitcher, cited his reasoning for not sporting LGBTQ inclusive parts on his uniform as being a "faith-based decision." 

"It's a hard decision," Adam told the Tampa Bay Times. "Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different."

Ruby labeled the pitcher's stance as homophobia. 

"It always baffles me when guys use Jesus as their excuse to discriminate," Ruby said. "Like, wasn’t Jesus the guy who preached ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ (or ‘love thy teammate’ as it applies in this situation)?" he said. "This isn’t about religion. This is about being a good teammate. When guys go out of their way to make a point of opposing Pride Night, they’re sending a clear message that people like me just aren’t welcome in baseball. It’s a reminder that even on the one night we get to be proud of ourselves at the ballpark, we are still second-class citizens. It’s as simple as that."

Follow national reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Sad and infuriating:' Openly gay pro baseball player speaks out on Rays players' stance

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