The St. Louis Cardinals have invited Lance Berkman, a former player who has espoused anti-LGBTQ views, to speak at the team’s annual “Christian Day.” The decision is being met with outrage by area LGBTQ groups, USA Today is reporting.
For about 30 years now, the Cards organization has hosted an annual “Christian Day” at Busch Stadium, one of several themed ticket days that the team hosts each season, notes Riverfront Times writer Elizabeth Semko. Discounted tickets are offered to groups of 25 people or more – for example, church groups; fans are asked to bring donations, such as canned food items, for a local charity; and after the game, a guest speaker joins Christian Cards players and coaches for an “outreach event.”
This year, that guest speaker is former Cardinals player and all-around swell guy (seriously: he won the team’s Daryl Kile Good Guy Award in 2011) Lance Berkman, who played for the Cards on their World Series-winning 2011 team. Berkman is a devout Christian who, now that his professional career is over, has returned to his native Texas and has taken up coaching at a Christian school in Houston.
On paper, selecting Berkman to speak at the event makes perfect sense.
However, Berkman’s invitation is proving controversial, thanks to some of his activities since his baseball career ended. Specifically, Berkman appeared in a TV ad in opposition to a proposed Houston law that prohibited discrimination based on gender, race, religion, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The bill would have allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time, that didn’t sit well with Berkman.
“As a father of four daughters this scenario comes to mind where I’ve got my girls (going into) a public bathroom and there’s a guy in there and I don’t know what his intentions are. Is he a voyeur? Is he a child molester? Does he really think he’s a woman? I don’t know. You can open a can of worms that just doesn’t need to be opened.”
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Now, a couple of years later, those comments are coming back to haunt Berkman and the Cards. For example, Pride St. Louis, in a statement to the Post-Dispatch, harshly criticized the Cards’ decision to invite him.
“Pride St. Louis is disappointed by the decision of the St. Louis Cardinals to provide a public platform for Berkman, an individual whose words and actions towards the LGBTQ+ are divisive and demeaning.”
The Cardinals organization, for its part, is standing by its decision to invite Berkman, according to the Riverfront Times.
“Lance Berkman participated in Christian Day when he was a Cardinals player, and we welcome him back this year to discuss his faith.”
However, the Cards are also taking a step in the direction of being more friendly to its LGBTQ fans. As the Riverfront Times reports, the Cards have decided to add “Pride Day” to its expanding list of themed ticket events and will host such an event at some point during the 2017 season.
Do you believe the Cardinals were wrong to invite Lance Berkman to speak at “Christian Day”?
[Featured Image by Al Behrman/AP Photo]