Saturday was “Pride Night” at the San Diego Padres game and the stands at Petco Park were packed with over 40,000 fans celebrating the LGBT-inclusive occasion. Fitting the theme of the evening, the 100 members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus filed out onto the field to sing the national anthem before the game. Then, this happened:
Instead of the audio track that would have accompanied the chorus, there was a recording of a woman singing the anthem by herself. The entire song played. Nothing was said about it afterward. The chorus was not given the opportunity to sing the arrangement they had prepared and was left to depart the field in humiliation as some homophobic fans heckled them with taunts like “You sing like a girl!”
In a statement issued Sunday morning, the Chorus lambasted the Padres. “What should have been a night of joy and celebration at Petco Park last night,” the group said on Facebook, “instead turned into a nightmare raising serious questions about homophobia within the San Diego Padres organization and its relationship with the LGBT community.”
The chorus also pointed out that they had other reasons to be skeptical about the motivations behind the incident. “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.” This was resolved only the day before the game, and didn’t change the fact that many chorus members did buy tickets for their friends and family to come see them perform.
The Padres issued only a brief statement Saturday night, claiming the incident was simply a “mistake” made in the control room, with a brief apology:
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 22, 2016
Billy Bean — who is openly gay, himself a former Padres player, and now Major League Baseball’s vice president of social responsibility and inclusion — came to the Padres’ defense and tried to downplay any rumors of foul play.
— Billy Bean (@billybeanball) May 22, 2016
But the outcry continued, with some major national newspapers even picking up the story. Ultimately, on Sunday night, the Padres issued a second statement. It acknowledged that the mistake was made, and that it was also a blunder to not intervene or correct that mistake. Thus, the team has ended its relationship with the third-party contractor responsible for the error and “taken disciplinary action” against the employee who allowed it to happen.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 23, 2016
The team has also confirmed on Twitter that it has invited the chorus to return for a make-up performance. It has not indicated whether any of the tickets they purchased for their friends and family that night will be refunded, and it remains unclear if members of the chorus might once again be asked to pay for their own opportunity to perform.
The chorus has not publicly responded to the offer. Acknowledging the apologies the Padres have extended, the chorus’ executive director Bob Lehman remained skeptical, telling the New York Times, “Somebody didn’t know how to press the stop button? I couldn’t believe a professional organization like that didn’t know what to do.”
DJ Artform, who was responsible for playing the wrong recording at the game, has come forward and profusely apologized. He
Major League Baseball said Monday that is investigating the incident.
The Chorus has accepted DJ Artform’s apology and asked that he be given back his job because “everyone deserves a second chance.”