Add the Atlanta Braves to a small, but growing list of pro sports teams reaching out to their gay fans.
The Braves have agreed to set aside up to 2,000 tickets for the Aug. 8 game at Turner Field against the Houston Astros. The event is being held in conjunction with a site visit by officials with the Federation of Gay Games. The group will be in town as part of a review of Atlanta’s bid to host the 2006 Gay Games.
“We endorse the Atlanta Games Inc.’s efforts to bring the Games here,” Braves spokesman Jim Schultz told Jay Croft of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s online addition. “It’s another opportunity to advance Atlanta’s reputation as a culturally diverse city and an international city.”
The team has offered use of Turner Field for the Games’ closing ceremonies if there is no conflict with the Braves’ schedule, Schultz told the Journal-Constitution.
“We’re treating them (Atlanta Games) as we do any community group or corporate group that would want to come to a Braves game,” said Karen Lumpkin, a group sales coordinator for the Braves. There will be some sort of ceremony before the game to acknowledge’s the committee’s presence.
The Braves’ event, while not unique, is still somewhat rare. “Out at the Ball Game,” a similar gay-friendly event, was a smash in Chicago June 23 at a Cubs game. The Los Angeles Dodgers last year honored GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group, while the San Francisco Giants for years have hosted an AUDS awareness day at a game. The Minnesota Twins, in conjunction with OutFront Minnesota and the Human Rights Campaign, have a gay pride event set for a game Sept. 14.
The WNBA has been the most active sports league in the targeting the lesbian community (see following story). These events are a recognition that in the competition for entertainment dollars some teams nedd to look everywhere for paying customers. The Cubs, for example, coming off a last-place finish in 2000 and the departure of popular players like Mark Grace, bought 10 ads in the Chicago Free Press.
We could find no instances of similar courting by teams in the NBA, NHL or NFL. The jury is still out as to whether actively marketing to the gay community will provoke a backlash. In Sacramento, the Capitol Resource Institute, “a non-profit group that advocates for conservative, family-oriented legislation,” convinced the WNBA’s Monarchs to hold a “Traditional Marriage Night,” the Sacramento Bee reported. It will be interesting to see if these homophobes can draw more than the 9,300 the Monarchs got for their July 21 Gay Pride Night. ”
LESBIANS GET ROYAL TREATMENT BY MONARCHS
The Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA drew near a season-high 9,300 fans July 21 for their game against the Detroit Shock. The fact that it was designated Gay Pride Night was no coincidence.
“I’m loving it,” Kat Fox of the David Dykes told the Sacramento Bee. “There’s more people here than any game I’ve seen this season, and Detroit is not a draw. There’s even a lot of gay guys. That’s great!”
There were no incidents before, during or after the game. Among the other groups who had their “day” were 300 high school girls basketball players.
“No matter what brought them to Arco, the groups joined together to root for the Monarchs as well as enjoy the evening’s special highlights, including the halftime show by the all-woman Taiko Drummers,” wrote the Bee’s Debbie Arrington. “The dozen-member Rainbow Chorus sang one of the most traditional versions of the national anthem all season.”
“And on the phrase “home of the free,” the crowd broke out in loud, extended applause.”
Monarchs owner Joe Maloof said he didn’t care if his support for Gay Pride Night turned anyone off.
“Our team is there for the enjoyment of everybody,” he told the paper. “I’m not going to worry because somebody gets upset about it. That’s not what our family is all about.”
The WNBA has been aggressive this year in encouraging its teams to market to lesbians. Other teams making overtures include the Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Lynx, the Phoenix Mercury, the Seattle Storm and Miami Sol.
The moves, while applauded from an acceptance level, are based on simple economics: The WNBA estimates its audience is 75 percent female, with a large but undetermined amount of that being lesbians. In a crowded marketplace the league is being smart in targeting a niche.