The Pawtucket Red Sox, the top minor league team in the Boston Red Sox farm system, offered a partial apology on Thursday for a Pride Night celebration that featured former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer and a cross-promotion with Chick-fil-A, the notoriously anti-LGBTQ fast food chain. But while the team acknowledged that having Spicer throw out the ceremonial first pitch on that night of all nights “wounded” many in the LGBTQ+ community and allies, it offered an explanation for the Chick-fil-A promotion that only made things worse.
The Rhode Island-based team hosted its annual Pride Night last Friday. It also hosted a wounded veterans nonprofit — which chose to be represented by Sean Spicer, a native of the nearby town of Barrington — as well as a promotion sponsored by the local Chick-fil-A franchise at the same game. Given that the Trump administration and Chick-fil-A have both become lightning rods for their anti-LGBTQ records, their tone-deaf inclusion on a night meant to celebrate the LGBTQ community spurred national backlash.
On Thursday, team president Charles Steinberg released an open letter to fans. After explaining why Spicer had been invited, he wrote: “We did not foresee the confluence of these events, which has wounded many of our friends and fans in the LGBTQ+ community, and the many allies. We are terribly sorry, and we seek to make amends.”
But he did not apologize for the Chick-fil-A promotion. Instead, he suggested that the promotion should not be taken as offensive at all because the team runs it at every game, not just when the LGBTQ community is being celebrated.
“[W]e are learning that some have thought we scheduled a promotion with Chick-Fil-A on Pride Night,” Steinberg wrote. “For the past two years, the PawSox have run a nightly promotion sponsored by local owners of Chick-Fil-A restaurants: One fan each game has the opportunity to catch three pop flies, and if the third pop fly is caught, all fans have the option to redeem their ticket stubs for a chicken sandwich at an area restaurant. We run this promotion at every game, not only on Pride Night.” In other words, their defense for partnering with an anti-LGBTQ company on Pride Night is that they partner with an anti-LGBTQ company every other night as well.
The Boston Red Sox press office referred all questions to the Pawtucket Red Sox organization. A spokesperson for the Pawtucket Red Sox did not have any comment beyond the letter about what message such a daily partnership sends to the LGBTQ and allied community.
Since ThinkProgress reported in March that Chick-fil-A’s foundation gave $1.8 million in 2017 to non-profits that discriminated, several other communities have been rethinking their partnerships with the fast food chain. At least two entities have taken steps to bar Chick-fil-A locations from airports. The company is one of a very small number of major American corporations that still does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its corporate non-discrimination policy.
This post has been updated to include the fact that the Pawtucket Red Sox did not have any additional comment.