It should have been a fun night at the ballpark Saturday in San Diego for anyone not rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it became an evening filled with confusion and hurt feelings for some before the game even started.
The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was invited to sing the National Anthem at the “Out at the Park” event at Petco Park and 100 volunteer members were on hand to participate. But when the moment arrived, the chorus was forced to stand on the field and listen to a recording of a woman singing the anthem instead, and the Padres never took any action to correct what the organization said was a mistake, such as allowing the chorus to perform after the recorded anthem ended.
Making matters worse, members of the chorus reported being booed and heckled as they were ushered off the field following the recorded anthem, including at least one taunt of "You sing like a girl."
The gay men’s chorus has performed at Padres games multiple times in the past, including just last season (see the video below). So there was no reason to suspect there would be anything unusual about Saturday’s performance.
The Padres explained what happened as a control room mistake and apologized in a brief statement. Padres president Mike Dee contacted the chorus to apologize and offered to meet with the group.
On Sunday morning, dissatisfied with the explanation from the Padres and Dee’s attempt to smooth things over, SDGMC executive director Bob Lehman issued a statement calling for the Padres and Major League Baseball to investigate the incident. Lehman also asked the City of San Diego to investigate to determine whether hate crimes had been committed. The full statement from Lehman is below.****
SAN DIEGO, May 22, 2016—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.Kyle Ringo
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 game was probably an afterthought for those involved in the pregame ugliness. The Padres won 3-2 in the 11th inning when Yangervis Solarte drew a bases-loaded walk to end the game.