While most people know about the "It Gets Better" videos produced by a handful of Major League Baseball teams in the last few months, there's been another inclusive trend developing in sports, and this one starts in the front office.
"Gay nights" have been held at Major League Baseball games for over a decade. Other pro-sports leagues have gotten in on the act. Until recently, all these events have been created and organized by people in the gay community.
Now, teams themselves are actively pursuing "gay nights." They're not waiting for gay people to pitch them the events; they're seeking us out to host the community, raise a rainbow flag and have the gay men's chorus sing the national anthem.
In 2004 I organized a "gay night" with the New York Mets. It wasn't easy. When I first approached them, they were very reticent; one team executive even wondered aloud in a meeting with me, "What do we do if a guy dressed as a woman tries to use the women's restroom?" There was some twisting of arms back then, and I felt I had to let them know that "of course, if you don't make this happen, I'll have to call my friends at the New York Daily News and let them know."
On Monday, Sept. 26, the New York Mets held their second "gay night." This time it's the team itself that created and is organizing the event, led by Mets account executive Stu Cohen. They're reaching out to gay organizations, lowering ticket costs (as well they should, given that they're out of the playoffs) and hoping this becomes an annual event.
For the most part, there's no altruism here. Teams have empty seats and need them filled. You'll never see the New York Jets or Los Angeles Lakers have a "gay night" -- why? Because they sell out already! But the fact that the Mets, struggling to sell tickets in September, would turn to the gay community is a sign of how far we've come since they worried seven years ago about transgender bathrooms.
"It's just like Irish Heritage or Jewish Heritage Night," Cohen told me. "There's no difference."
Being treated "just like" every other group. "There's no difference." That, my friends, is progress.
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