SAN DIEGO—One hundred members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus stood midfield at Petco Park prepared to sing the National Anthem for a capacity crowd that had paid $87 for a seat at the Out of the Park Pride Night to watch the San Diego Padres vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. Instead the park’s PA system unspooled the voice of a woman singing the Star Spangled Banner.
The response to the enormous gaff was quick and accusatory. On its website, the SD Gay Men’s Chorus said:
No attempt was made to stop the recording and start over. No announcement of apology was made to the singers or their friends and families in the stands. No attempt to correct the situation occurred other than to force the 100 men to stand in the spotlight of center field for the song’s duration and then be escorted off the field to the heckles of baseball fans shouting homophobic taunts including “You sing like a girl.”
This incident followed several days of troubling comments and behavior within the San Diego Padres organization. Three days before the game, San Diego Padres representatives aggressively sought to prevent singers from performing the National Anthem unless they purchased a ticket to the game—even if they did not plan to stay for the game—which was not part of any previous discussion or written or verbal agreement and would have cost the small, community-based non-profit thousands of dollars. The demand eventually was rescinded on Friday following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.
With this as background, we call on the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball to immediately launch a full and transparent investigation into the incident to determine if someone or some people intentionally engaged in anti-gay discrimination or a hate crime by playing a female’s voice to represent a group of gay men with the purpose of denigrating and/or ridiculing gay men. The historic significance of such an act is not lost on the LGBT community—especially in relation to professional sports—and added to the depth of embarrassment experienced by the singers and their families.
We also call upon the City of San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission to independently investigate this incident to determine if members of the San Diego Padres organization engaged in activity in violation of the San Diego Human Rights Ordinance or engaged in any deliberate hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
For its part, the Padres’ management issued a statement via Twitter
“This evening, during the pregame ceremony, a mistake was made in the Petco Park control room that prevented the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus from performing the National Anthem as scheduled. We apologize to anyone in the ballpark who this may have offended, and have reached out to the Chorus to express our deep regret for the error.”
In a late Sunday night update, the Padres tweeted:
“After a thorough examination of the events that occurred during last night’s National Anthem, we have concluded our internal investigation and found no evidence of malicious intent on the part of any individuals involved. Based both on the unintentional mistake that was made, as well as the failure to immediately intervene and correct the situation by those who had oversight, we have terminated our relationship with the third-party contractor who was responsible for the error, and taken disciplinary action against our employee who was responsible for the game production on Saturday.”
Billie Bean, Major League Baseball’s Ambassador for Inclusion, said via Facebook, “Unfortunate error during the National Anthem in SD last night, but the Padres have been incredibly supportive and visionary with support of my work, and our inclusive at MLB.” During his professional baseball career, Bean played outfield for the Padres, among other teams.