I wasn't at last night's game, but apparently there was a mishap during the National Anthem. I saw people talking about it soon after it happened on Twitter. Apparently the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus was on the field and set to sing but instead there was an error in the control room and the voice of a woman singing the National Anthem was played, while the men stood silently and embarrassed.
It's hard to say why any track was played at all. Was there supposed to be a backing track for the chorus? I seem to remember hearing that all singing is recorded in advance. Was that the reason?
I don't know. Yes, it was. I didn't even consider that it might be intentional. In any case the Padres apologized and promised to have them back to sing again. That seems like a reasonable response.
That's where I thought the story ended, but this morning the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus released a statement on their Facebook page questioning whether the Padres are a homophobic.
What should have been a night of joy and celebration at Petco Park last night, instead turned into a nightmare raising serious questions about homophobia within the San Diego Padres organization and its relationship with the LGBT community.
The SDGMC said the Padres control room made no attempt to stop the recording from playing and left them in center of the field to be taunted by fans saying they "sing like a girl".
But there's more:
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 The demand eventually was rescinded on Friday following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.
Do the Padres regularly ask performers to buy tickets? That sounds a bit ridiculous to me, but that very well could be the norm. Still the Padres eventually ate the cost.
In concluding their statement they ask that a full and transparent investigation take place by the Padres and Major League Baseball.
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.
Also the City Attorney's Office and the Human Relations Commission are asked to get involved as well.
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.
President Mike Dee has offered to meet with LGBT leaders to discuss the incident.
We applaud San Diego Padres President and Chief Executive Office Mike Dee for reaching out to our organization to apologize and to offer to meet with LGBT leaders to discuss the incident. We look forward to this meeting. We believe it is important to work together with the San Diego Padres organization to build bridges within the LGBT community rather than burn them down as happened last night.
Until there's actual proof that there was intent to embarrass the Chorus, I just can't find a reason to suggest that homophobia was the reason. We'll see how this turns out.
UPDATE Former Padre Billy Bean defends the organization:
UPDATE Here's video of the SDGMC walking off the field after the incident:
And here's the Padres' follow up response. They've fired their contractor and disciplined an employee but found no intent:
UPDATE: NY Times reports that the regular sound technician was unavailable due to a car crash.
Mr. Lehman said he had spoken with Mike Dee, the team’s chief executive, whom he described as sincerely apologetic. Mr. Lehman said he had been told that the regular technician was in a car crash the night before and that a substitute was in the control room.
“Somebody didn’t know how to press the stop button?” he asked. “I couldn’t believe a professional organization like that didn’t know what to do.”
While encouraged, Lehman wouldn't go as far as saying he had accepted the Padres' apology.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I want to look him in the eye and talk to him. He seems sincere, and I believe he is. I want him to know what the entire experience has been working with the Padres, not only for me but other LGBT people in the community who were there that night and explain it to him first-hand so that he really knows what’s going on.
UPDATE: The DJ who was fired speaks out.