After a five-game road trip to sunny southern California, the A’s returned to Oakland Wednesday and a crowd of 20,625 celebrating the organization’s first ever LGBT Pride Night.
Fans waved rainbow flags, flashed a “We are proud of our Oakland Athletics” poster, and danced the night away as the A’s closed out an explosive 16-2 victory.
The A’s announced the Pride event in March would honor of the life of Glenn Burke, the MLB’s first openly gay player, while distributing Oakland A’s Pride Night wristbands to fans with specially-priced field-level tickets.
With her A’s rainbow wristband in place and a rainbow flag propped on the back of her ball cap, longtime fan La’Quoia Dill, 23, told SFBay the team needs to have more nights like this:
“I feel really good that they created this space for LGBT to come out and have a sense of community, that’s a really beautiful thing. We need to have more spaces like this because we don’t really, especially in sports.”
There was also a special appearance by Breanna Sinclaire, who became the first transgender woman to sing the national anthem at a professional sporting event.
When announced in March, the promotion night was met with some negative comments among hundreds of positive messages on social media. Some season ticket holders wanted to sell their tickets and other fans avoiding the coliseum that night completely. Things got very ugly, and quickly (comments from Oakland Athletics official Facebook page):
- Are you kidding me? Makes me sick my team is doing this.
- At least they gave us fair warning when not to go.
- I love my country and my family. And I’m really disappointed in society and in this organization right now. I hope the A’s are willing to exchange tickets for families not wishing to partake in something they don’t support.
Upon hearing of the negativity surrounding Pride Night, Eireann Dolan, the girlfriend of left-handed closer Sean Doolittle took to her blog “Thank You Based Ball” to address fans wanting to sell their tickets:
“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs and as long as nobody is getting hurt, I’m happy. I also can’t stop you from selling your tickets.”
Dolan went on to suggest fans wanting to sell their tickets sell them to her and in return she would donate the tickets to Bay Area Youth Center’s Our Space community.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Dolan spoke with SFBay about her two mothers playing a part in influencing her decision to buy and donate tickets, recalling the struggles her mother faced when first coming out and her fears of not being accepted by society:
“I was imagining some teens and young adults who might have been newly “out” coming to this game and seeing empty seats. I didn’t want them to take it personally. When my mom first came out, she would get so anxious going in public that people wouldn’t accept her. She would get hives or panic. I didn’t want any newly “out” people seeing those empty seats and thinking it was a reflection on how the A’s community felt about them.”
“For every one negative comment about LGBT Pride Night from fans, there were hundreds of supportive and wonderful messages of acceptance and excitement from the rest of the fans. To me that says that we won’t let those handful of negative people speak for us. We all collectively said, okay you don’t want to go to the game? Great, no problem; We’ll buy your tickets and give them to someone who could really benefit from being there with us.”
— Eireann Dolan (@EireannDolan) May 30, 2015
In addition to buying tickets, Dolan and Doolittle also set aside $3,000 each to match donations made to the GoFundMe account Dolan created for Our Space. In a matter of two months, 997 people raised $36,770.
Dolan expressed her gratitude to those who donated and their support for the past two months, all the while keeping the members of Our Space in mind:
“I thought of these kids and young adults who are a part of Our Space LGBT Community Center. These are people who feel as though they don’t have the acceptance that we should all be entitled to, and that most of us take for granted. These teens and young adults are seeking a community by coming to this community center. I wanted to show them that they have an even bigger community in A’s fans.”
Dolan arranged transportation for all game attendees and visited the Our Space center to chat with members about prom, softball and other mutual interests a few weeks ago.
The visit gave new and longtime members like four-year affiliate Hailey Turner a chance to personally thank Dolan, as well as talk about how much Dolan said Turner reminds her of her younger self:
“My fellow members were excited when we heard about it [Pride Night] and we were trying to figure a way to go. When we heard what Eireann and Sean were doing we were so shocked. We are very grateful for these tickets. A few weeks ago me and the fellow members were telling her how this was some of our first games. It touched her heart how much love we had for her.”
Stephanie Perron, the director of LGBTQ Our Space Community Center also told SFBay:
“We’re incredibly grateful and humbled by the show of support and allyship for LGBTQ youth from Eireann and Sean and the Oakland A’s. … We’re really proud to be part of a community that stands up against messages of hate and transforms them into acts of love, which is exactly what Eireann and Sean have done. “
Fans in attendance Wednesday said they were surprised Pride Night took so long to happen in Oakland, especially for a place like the Bay Area. Adrianna Spindle, 24, thanked Dolan for her hard work and spiritedly proclaimed:
“What she did, that was so badass. She’s awesome, so thank you very much to her!”
Spindle also commented on the naysayers of the evening:
“It’s fucking awesome here and fun, so why bring that energy to a place you know we all like?”
More than half of MLB teams have presented an event similar to that of Pride Night, a trend that Dill, Perron, and Dolan all agree needs to continue and spread to the rest of the league.
A fan who identifies as Gao, 36, said he always felt uncomfortable and not welcomed at sporting events:
“Sports to me, is such a ‘bro’ thing, but the Oakland A’s has opened up an opportunity for LGBT people and showed their open-mindedness. It’s really nice.”
Dolan hopes to continue pushing for more events and play a role in including sports like football and hockey to the mix. And as more and more baseball teams announce their respective LGBT events, Dolan has even higher hopes for the future:
“It shows me that the world of sports is ready to collectively say that there’s just no room for bigotry. And what better place to start the conversation than at a ballpark where we all already agree that the A’s are the best team in baseball?”
Dolan being completely unbiased, that is.
A portion of the proceeds collected Wednesday will benefit AIDS Project East Bay and Frameline, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ media arts. … Sean Doolittle and Eireann Dolan will host a Pride Party and shopping event Thursday at Bloomingdale’s San Francisco. Proceeds will go to Our Space LGBTQ Community Center.