Los Angeles Dodgers re-invite satirical drag group to Pride Night after backlash

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the latest corporation to get tangled in the culture wars. They originally planned to include a queer and trans group for a Dodgers' pride event, then, under pressure, retracted their invitation. Now, they’ve changed their minds again. Stephanie Sy discussed the backlash with LZ Granderson.

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  • William Brangham:

    The latest company caught up in the battle over LGBTQ issues is the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    One of baseball's most storied franchises, the Dodgers originally planned to include one particular queer and trans group as part of its Pride event. But then, under pressure from critics, the Dodgers retracted that invitation.

    Now, as Stephanie Sy reports, the team has reversed course again, apologized and welcomed the group back.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a charity and drag group calling attention to LGBTQ+ issues. Not only were they invited to the Dodgers' Pride night. The franchise originally planned to honor the group with its Community Heroes award next month.

    But conservative Catholics have called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence a hate group, and a local diocese called the group's behavior demeaning and disrespectful to the sisters of the Catholic Church.

    The Dodgers reacted by rescinding the groups invite. A member defended the charity.

  • Performer:

    They have always said that we are anti-Catholic and that we are making fun of Catholicism, which is not true. We are here to be silly and to look flamboyant, in service to people in our community who have no resources, no money, no voice.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    With the organizers of the Los Angeles Pride Parade threatening to pull out of Pride Night, the Dodgers have now done another 180.

    Yesterday, the team apologized and reinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It's the latest example of a corporation facing fallout for trying to be LGBTQ+-inclusive. Last month, right-wing boycotts of Bud Light like these flooded social media after trans actress and influencer Dylan Mulvaney this on her Instagram:

  • Dylan Mulvaney, Influencer:

    This month, I celebrated my day 365 of womanhood. And Bud Light sent me possibly the best gift ever, a can with my face on it.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    In the fallout, the brand took a hit in sales and two top marketing executives took a leave of absence. Anheuser-Busch said it would re-focus marketing on sports and music.

    For another perspective, I'm joined by LZ Granderson, columnist for The L.A. Times.

    LZ, it is good to see you.

    I should say, you are also a veteran sports journalist, and you have reported for years on professional sports' move toward more inclusivity of gay athletes. So, did the Dodgers strike out, so to speak, on this one, at least initially?

  • LZ Granderson, The Los Angeles Times:

    Using their own words, yes.

    I had an interview with the president of the Dodgers, Stan Kasten, and he flat out said that they made a mistake and he explained why, that they're an organization that have done these sort of celebrations for 10 years without any hitch. And then, this year, they had a hitch and they didn't know what to do, and they panicked.

    But they had meetings with the community, with the LGBTQ+ community leaders, with the Sisters, and then decided to reinvite them, returning back to their overall sort of theme, which is, the organization supports the community.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    What was the original sin, so to speak, here by the Dodgers, in your view? Was it rescinding the invitation?

    I mean, at what point did they go wrong?

  • LZ Granderson:

    I think they went wrong, assuming that they could operate the same way they have been operating for the past 10 years, to be quite honest with you.

    And that's not just a commentary in regards to the Dodgers, but, really, as much of corporate America. As I said earlier, the Dodgers have been doing this for 10 years. Well, go back 10 years ago, we had a different president, we had a different Supreme Court, we had a different sense in the culture.

    Things have changed over the past decade. And so it's very difficult to try to wade into waters that's dealing with groups, whether it's with conversations of diversity and equity and inclusion, whether it's about trans rights, et cetera. Anything that's seen as progressive can be used against your corporations.

    And so it's really behooved upon a lot of corporations to look to see what happened to Disney, to see what happened with Bud Light, to see what happened with the Dodgers and be prepared with statements and a philosophy, so, when criticism comes, you're not scrambling like those organizations I just mentioned.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    LZ, in the context of legislation being passed lately by conservative states to specifically target trans people, do you think the Dodgers' decision to now include the Sisters of Indulgence charity is more poignant?

  • LZ Granderson:

    Well, I think that it's more consistent to what they have always tried to be, particularly during Pride celebrations, which is to celebrate all aspects of the community.

    I think that it's a little — I think it puts too much credit, to be quite honest with you, to the conservative movement that's attacking the trans movement right now, because it isn't really a well-thought-out plan. It's really just another example of throwing anything up against the wall and seeing what sticks.

    And for this particular news cycle, this particular political cycle, it is attacking, again, the queer community. But we have seen other examples of them trying to find a cultural touchstone that can help drive voters, right? So this isn't unique. It isn't about the Dodgers trying to make a statement with the Sisters. They have always been supportive of the drag community, just like all aspects of the queer community.

    This is, again, just about a lightning-in-the-bottle moment, in terms of where we are politically, and that the Dodgers are just doing what they have always done, which is try to be an organization for everyone, including the queer community.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    So, the political lightning rod that are trans issues in particular right now aside, L.Z., there are people who are offended by this group and what they view as mocking of Catholicism and its figures, including Christ and Virgin Mary.

    You heard that criticism coming from outside politicians and groups, as you mentioned, but did you also hear that from Dodgers fans?

  • LZ Granderson:

    We have heard a lot actually from Dodgers fans. They're — if you go online, anyone can just simply take a look at some of the commentary that's happening on social media today.

    And there are a lot of people who are upset about the system's inclusion and who were actually happy that the Dodgers decided to initially disinvite them. That's just going to be a reality for anyone who decides to try to do anything that's remotely tied to the culture, because we're just in a very divisive moment right now in this country.

    And anything, whether you're talking about Black History Month, whether you're celebrating AAPI Month, you're going to find a group that's going to find some level of offense. And I want to just say that, when it comes specifically to religious ideology and imagery, you can go back to "Rosemary's Baby" in the 1970s, and I believe the Catholic Church was upset about that.

    You can go back to Madonna and "Papa Don't Preach," and they were upset in the '80s about that. And so there's been consistent examples in which people have used religion imagery to try to have a cultural moment, maybe a satirical moment, and that people of that faith have been offended by it. This is not unique to the Sisters. This is not unique to the Dodgers.

    This is something that we have witnessed in this culture for many decades.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Certainly a conversation that continues in many quarters.

    LZ Granderson, a columnist for The Los Angeles Times, thank you so much for joining us.

  • LZ Granderson:

    Well, thank you very much for having me.

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