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The Yankees are missing the mark when it comes to social issues

Matt Gregory




Locked On Yankees is a Yankees blog, first and foremost. We talk about the on-field product and analyze it on a microscopic level. But, baseball is a sport that holds cultural significance at a global level. Because of that, it is important to talk about the cultural impact the Yankees have or in this case, have not had this year.

The inspiration for this post was this tweet:

The wording of this tweet is extremely important.


The Yankees are not terminating their relationship with Papa John’s. They are suspending, which ostensibly means they could restart the relationship later. They are not alone, other major league baseball teams have also suspended their relationship, with the MLB indefinitely suspending its relationship. But this is a Yankees blog, so we will focus on the Yankees.

The bar was set extremely low for the Yankees to do something worthwhile. Forget that the quality of Papa John’s pales in comparison to literally any New York pizza joint and the relationships the Yankees could build with those local businesses.

All the Yankees had to do was end the relationship, full stop. Cutting ties with a now toxic brand is not hard. Sure, it hurts monetarily short term, but overall it is a more positive action. Instead, they suspended, because the possibility of money in the future when this all blows over is still real.

John Schnatter’s recent racist remarks directed at African Americans (and the comments he made about football players driving his sales down) should have been enough. The Bronx, per the Census Bureau, is 43.7% Black or African American as of July 1, 2017. If you walk around the Bronx for even ten minutes, you will see countless people wearing Yankees gear. The Yankees and the Bronx are forever connected. At the very least, ending the relationship with Papa John’s would have shown a core of the Bronx population, that the Yankees do care. Instead, they did the bare minimum.

In an area with such a large African American population, engagement with the fans should be a priority. The RBI program and Play Ball initiatives are good on face value, but in terms of meaningful progress, have amounted to little. On Opening Day of 2018, only 8.4% of Major League Baseball players were black. In the 1970s that number was 18%. Making baseball more appealing and more accessible, i.e. with cheaper ticket sales and impactful cultural nights, is something where the MLB and the Yankees have failed.

Which brings up another failure that is just as important. The Yankees, as of 2019, will be the only team in Major League Baseball to never hold a Pride Day/Night. In 2018, the Yankees and the Angels were the only teams to not have a Pride Day/Night event. Again, you may believe that a single Pride event is not nearly enough to show an organization cares about the LGBTQ+ community. I agree but it is at least something. Especially in New York City, which is host to one of the largest Pride parades in the world, this is a complete failure by the organization. A Pride event is the first step to a longer and more meaningful relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ community has had a long, tumultuous history in the city, starting with the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. Sports teams have slowly come around to holding pride events during pride month in June and the Yankees, being in the epicenter of the pride movement’s beginning, still have not held a Pride Night for their fans. Skipping over the fact that this would bring in thousands of fans to the stadium, it is disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ fan base to not even acknowledge them or their movement.

As the New York Times notes, the Yankees have “shied away from promotions with ethnic or cultural flair,” though a team spokesman noted that there is far more going on behind the scenes. Both Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s executive who works to promote inclusion in the sport and David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network had reached out the Yankees on separate occasions for a pride night but received no response. Bean noted that not “having a pride event does not paint an entire picture of the organization’s position on inclusivity” but followed up that it opens more opportunities with the LGBTQ+ community.

Baseball has an issue with engaging Millennials and younger generations. The millennial generation is one of the most inclusive. Nearly half of millennials surveyed by the Institute for Public Relations said that diversity and inclusion were important in their workplace. Minor league teams are now running promotions like this as some type of joke?

They seem to think we are all still children who like having our intelligence insulted. The thing about my generation and the even younger generations is that we care. We care about social issues, we care about inclusion because the older generations did not, and we must do the work to fix their shortcomings.

So, when sports teams do things like failing to reach out to historically marginalized communities, we respond by ignoring them and choosing not to pay for their product. If it creates hundreds of think pieces stating that “Millennials are killing baseball,” then it is worth it because maybe Major League Baseball will pay attention. Money talks.

Bringing this all back around: the Yankees are instantly recognizable around the world. If they fail to engage and do small acts of outreach to their fans, people notice. These are acts of social outreach, acts of goodwill towards your fanbase that they should be doing and should have been doing for years. Showing that you care about your fans and care that they support your team. Instead, the Yankees have maintained their reputation as a business, or more simply, they have put money first.


MLB sees continued increase in diversity

MLB race and gender report card shows progress still needed

Black MLB participation inches up, but is still pitifully low

Left Out

Yankees set to be only MLB team not to host LGBTQ Pride Night

25 Major League Baseball teams to host LGBT Pride nights in 2018

As More Teams Host Gay Pride Events, Yankees Remain a Holdout

Born and raised in New Jersey in a Yankee household, Matt works with computers by day but has always loved baseball. When he's not doing either of those things, he's probably thinking about Villanova basketball way too much. Follow him on Twitter @MattchewGregory.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Neil

    July 27, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Why does lgbt need a special night what’s next m6 gang members night

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