Rainbows were lit up around the stadium and white T-shirts with rainbow-colored Mets logos were sprinkled around Citi Field on June 25 when the team hosted the Philadelphia Phillies for a Pride night doubleheader.
The Mets have had an annual Pride night game dating back to 2016, though last year’s event was wiped out because the coronavirus pandemic prevented in-person attendance. This year, the team’s Pride doubleheader came just as restrictions were further eased at Citi Field — and the Mets drew one of the largest crowds of the season to date, with 29,012 fans.
The first 12,000 fans received a free Pride T-Shirt and plenty of rainbows were visible across different areas of the stadium, though most of the rainbows were branded with corporate logos — such as the Coca-Cola sign in right field as well as a Dunkin’ Donuts “This park has Pride” advertisement.
The corporate influence in Pride festivities has drawn significant criticism in recent years, leading to the Reclaim Pride Coalition’s annual Queer Liberation March — which bans corporations entirely. While corporations are expected to play a role in professional sports games, the corporate influence at the park struck a nerve among some fans between innings when a Mets employee wore a Pride T-shirt while facilitating a promotion led by Chick-Fil-A — which has been shrouded in controversy for donating millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ figures.
During that between-inning program, children participate in a quick home run derby: They are tasked with hitting balls over a fence with the goal of clearing the wall every time. Those who do hit every ball over the fence trigger a promotion in which every attendee in the stadium gets a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened on Pride night, sparking anger from fans who ripped the Mets on social media.
The anti-LGBTQ record of Chick-Fil-A was raised again earlier this year when activists protested outside a new Chick-Fil-A in Jackson Heights. In Staten Island, the Yankees’ minor league affiliate severed its partnership with Chick-Fil-A after that team got ripped for doing business with the anti-LGBTQ fast food giant. The Mets took heat when the team added Chick-Fil-A advertisements to the foul poles in 2019.
Nonetheless, the Mets did make their own efforts to bring Pride to Citi Field. The T-shirt giveaway was a step up from previous years when fans were required to purchase Pride attire, and the team was more intentional by coloring the team logo in rainbow colors on social media. The Mets also adjusted their “Ya Gotta Believe” slogan to read “Ya Gotta Have Pride” on the scoreboard and a long rainbow stripe stretched along the stadium. The team also honored Callen-Lorde Community Health Center as the community hero of the day and highlighted other LGBTQ-focused organizations between innings — including the LGBT Network.
It was also fitting that the Mets’ starting pitcher in game one of the doubleheader was Taijuan Walker, who has posted about his support of LGBTQ community in multiple social media posts in recent weeks. He has described himself as a “Pride ally” and was spotted wearing a “Love is Love” T-Shirt during pre-game warm-ups days before Pride night.
Another starting pitcher, Marcus Stroman, has also voiced support for queer folks and wore the same T-shirt as Walker during warm-ups. There was a time earlier this season when Stroman publicly chastised a fan for using a homophobic slur.
“I can’t show appreciate for greatness but you can use a derogatory term that demeans the LGBTQ community? Be better and don’t delete this tweet once Twitter drags you,” Stroman told the fan via Twitter.
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) June 23, 2021
In game one of the doubleheader, Walker helped save the Mets’ struggling offense by limiting the Phillies to just one run in five innings. Shortstop Francisco Lindor’s two-out RBI double tied the game in the seventh and then outfielder Dominic Smith followed up with a walk-off RBI single in extra innings to win it for the Mets in game one, 2-1.
In game two of the doubleheader, the Mets and Phillies went into extra innings yet again after getting entangled in a 1-1 tie. The Phillies went on to win the nightcap, 2-1, to split the doubleheader.