The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team reversed course on May 22 2023 and apologized to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after initially disinviting the performance and activism group from the team’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride event on June 16.
The team said in a statement:
After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their friends and families.
We have asked the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16th. We are pleased to share that they have agreed to receive the gratitude of our collective communities for the lifesaving work that they have done tirelessly for decades.
KTLA-TV reported that the Sisters accepted the team’s apology while asking for more solidarity in the future.
“Anytime that we’ve made any strides in our community, it’s been because we have actively banded together and fought back against something, and that’s what we did today,” said Sister Bearonce Knows. “The results are fantastically in our favor.”
The group’s San Francisco chapter also released a statement on the Dodgers’ move, saying that Knows met with Dodgers president and chief executive officer Stan Kasten as well as local advocacy leaders and public officials at both the local and state level.
“A full apology and explanation was given to us by Dodgers staff which we accept,” the statement read. “We believe the apology is sincere because the Dodgers have worked for 10 years with our community and as well they have asked us to continue an ongoing relationship with them. In the future, if similar pressures from outside our community arise, our two organizations will consult and assist each other in responding, alongside our colleagues at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and others from the LGBTQIA2S community, now more closely tied with the LA Dodgers than ever before.”
Following a campaign orchestrated by the Catholic League and supported by Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the team announced on May 17 2023 that it had rescinded its invitation for the local chapter of the to be part of its tenth annual LGBTQ+ Pride event on June 16, as well as a “community hero” award that it had planned to present to the group.
The team had said in a statement:
We are now aware that our inclusion of one group in particular – The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – in this year’s pride night has been the source of some controversy.
Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ [sic] inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.
According to the LGBTQ sports news site Outsports (which was identified by the Dodgers as one of the event’s partners), Catholic League president Bill Donahue contacted Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball, to complain about the inclusion of the Sisters in the event.
The campaign against the group gained more visibility when Rubio (who has previously decried the presence of political issues in sports) announced that he had also contacted Manfred, claiming that the Sisters “[mock] Christians through diabolical parodies of our faith.”
The Sisters released their own statement, saying that they were disappointed in the Dodgers’ actions:
We are queer nuns serving our people just as nuns of other cultures serve theirs. We are not solely male; our membership includes all genders, religions, and romantic affiliations. Though we both serve the transgender community and have transgender members, we are not an exclusively trans organization. We unequivocally support the rights of transgender people.
We are both silly and serious. We use our flamboyance in service to our charity work and our message, which is, “There is room in our world for each person to be who they are, as they are, free from shame or guilt, and alive in joy and love for their own self.”
The Los Angeles chapter, like its predecessor in San Francisco, works extensively with other charities and causes; its list of “beneficiaries” includes not only local LGBTQ events and groups but projects benefitting AIDS patients and other groups like the American Red Cross.
The Dodgers’ initial decision came amid a wave of transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment fueled by right-wing elements. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a report saying that more than 166 anti-drag, inauthentically organized “protests” have been recorded around the U.S.:
False rhetoric was deployed against performers in campaign ads for the 2022 midterm elections, and rhetoric escalated to violence including the firebombing of a Tulsa donut shop that had hosted a drag event in October 2022. Equality Texas documented additional targeted events throughout the year, including an armed demonstration and confrontation in San Antonio.
Participation in anti-drag incidents in 2023 has included the Proud Boys, white supremacists, and religious extremists. ADL has tracked at least seven events where members of known extremist groups showed up.
A Los Angeles Times story details the inauthentically organized pressure campaign which apparently motivated the Dodgers’ decision:
The pushback from LGBTQ+ supporters came a day after the Dodgers and the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office were the target of email campaigns by conservative Catholics who objected to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence getting an award. The Dodgers, in turn, decided not to honor the group.
“Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the Sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees,” the Dodgers wrote Wednesday in a statement.
One of the people with knowledge of the Dodgers’ thinking said a campaign by conservative Catholics to call the Dodgers and voice concerns made a difference.
“They caught people off guard, we had to handle the phones and get yelled at on the front lines,” the person said. “It sends everyone in a tizzy.”
Tony Hoang, president of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality California, highlighted the hateful climate in his group’s response to the Dodgers’ capitulation.
“The anti-LGBTQ+ extremists who advocated for the removal of the Sisters from Pride Night are the very same people who are trying to erase the rights of trans kids and their families, criminalize drag performance and roll back equality for LGBTQ+ people across the country — we cannot and will not let them win,” said Hoang, whose organization is the largest of its kind in the state. “We call on the Dodgers to reinstate The Sisters as an honoree for Pride Night and work towards strengthening their commitment to unity.”
Another group listed as a partner for the Dodgers’ event, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said in a statement on May 18 2023 that it would no longer take part:
Buckling to pressure from out-of-state, right-wing fundamentalists, the Dodgers caved to a religious minority that is perpetuating a false narrative about LGBTQ+ people. They have been fed lies about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and have therefore contributed to the ongoing, anti-LGBTQ smear campaign happening in this country. In a year where over 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are on the books—many of them targeting freedom of speech, expression, and the bodily autonomy of our community—the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is as critical as ever, and unfortunately the Dodgers chose to bow to the religious right rather than stand with our LGBTQ community.
Local political leaders have also criticized the team’s decision. Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath wrote, “If they’re not invited, I’m not going. Celebrating Pride is about inclusion. Do better.”
L.A. City Council member Eunisses Hernandez said online that she was “disappointed” in the exclusion of the Sisters from the event.
“Truly acting in the spirit of unity would be including an LGBTQ+ organization that has worked to uplift the struggles of those on the margins,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Dodgers had said that Pride Night event was being held in conjunction with the non-profit Christopher Street West Association, which produces the annual LA Pride celebration. However, the festival said in a statement on May 19 2023 that it would also withdraw from the Dodgers’ event because of their decision to disinvite the Sisters.
“Pride is a fight for equality and inclusion for the entire LGBTQ+ community and we’re not going to stop now. Let’s make this year’s Pride celebration louder than ever,” the festival said.
In a separate statement, the nearby city of West Hollywood also called on the Dodgers to walk back their decision while also announcing that the Sisters would be taking part in its own local Pride parade in early June 2023.
“Inclusion and acceptance are at the heart of Pride. Pride is for everyone,” the city’s statement read. “We applaud the Sisters for their passionate dedication to the LGBTQ community, for tireless AIDS and HIV activism, for unequivocally crusading for the rights of all people, and for the love, laughter, and flair they inspire.”
Mayor Ashleigh Aitken of Anaheim also invited the Sisters to join her at a seperate Pride Night event hosted by her city’s baseball team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on June 7 2023.
“Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers decision,” Aitken wrote on Twitter.
We contacted the Dodgers to ask if the team had a plan in place should a similar anti-drag “protest” be held at its Pride Night event. We have yet to hear back.
Update 5/19/2023, 12:25 a.m.: Updated to reflect statements from the City of West Hollywood and LA Pride and details about the inauthentically organized email and phone pressure campaign. — ag/bb
Update 5/21/2023, 10:01 p.m..: Updated to reflect a statement from Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken. — ag/bb
Update 5/22/2023, 4:35 p.m. PST: Updated with new statement from the Dodgers reinstating its invitation to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to its Pride event. — ag/bb
Update 5/23/2023, 9:56 a.m. PST: Updated with new statement and remarks from the Sisters acknowledging and accepting an apology from the Dodgers. — ag