A lot of stereotypes exist around the LGBTQ community and sports. Gay men don’t like them, lesbians are in love with them and the people behind the teams would rather not have anything to do with the community. Enter Brian Auld and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Auld has been with the Rays for 12 years and has been the team’s president since 2014, and, in his time at Tropicana Field, nothing else has been engrained into the Rays more than the inclusion of the entire community: inclusion of women, minority groups and the LGBTQ community.
“Major League Baseball teams are a part of the fabric of the community that they are in, and I think it’s important to unequivocally state that these groups are a part of the community,” Auld says.
Auld has made sure that the Rays have been on the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion in sports since coming to the team. They were a part of the “It Gets Better” campaign to fight bullying against LGBT youth. They were also the first professional sports team to sign an amicus brief last year in support of same-sex marriage.
“The Supreme Court brief is a simple story, and I think that speaks to the way our organization works. We got a call and were asked if we would be willing to sign on and I said,‘of course,’” Auld says. “We have lots of people here who have gay friends and they were happy to see we signed onto that. We have LGBTQ employees who were very happy to see that we were standing up for them. It was really just that simple.”
The Rays celebrated a decade of Pride Nights at Tropicana Field this year. Auld says he works closely with MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion (who is openly gay) Billy Bean to make sure that the Rays have the best Pride Night of any sports team.
“As much as anything Pride Night started as a way for us to let the LGBTQ community know that we wanted them to come out to our games, and that we consider them an important part of the community,” Auld says.
“I got an email the morning after the Pulse attack, and it said, ‘We need to do something big here,'” Auld says. “All of us here were so affected, it was just so close and it didn’t seem like something like that could happen and then it did.”
Pride Night took place five days after the Pulse shooting. Auld and his team went to work getting We Are Orlando t-shirts made to give away to everyone in attendance, getting a memorial video put together and arranging to have all ticket sales donated to the OneOrlando Fund.
“To his credit [Rays owner] Stuart Sternberg said, ‘Make it big, make it great, don’t worry about the cost,” Auld says. “This was something that mattered not just to Tampa Bay but to the state and to the country, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team responded to it.”
Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.