SAN DIEGO – It was meant to be a night of pride at the ballpark but an apparent glitch left some fans crying foul.
On Saturday night the San Diego Padres suited up to play their Southern California rivals Los Angeles Dodgers. In the stands fans gathered for a Pride Night promotion. The award-winning San Diego Gay Men’s chorus waited under the mild spring sky to sing the national anthem.
But as fans removed their caps and turned to face the waving American flag, something went wrong.
Instead of hearing the voices of the 100-member choir, a single woman’s voice played over the stadium’s speaker system.
For a couple minutes the men stood still, not sure what was happening. Then the anthem concluded and they shuffled off the field.
The Padres called it “a mistake.” Bob Lehman isn’t so sure. The Executive Director of the chorus said the Padres were “difficult to work with” asking the chorus to pay for tickets to get into the game. While he said the team later apologized for the ticket request, Lehman says his community doesn’t trust the team and asked for an investigation.
“Besides the obvious embarrassment there is a feeling in the community that this was done on purpose. My first instinct was that this was done on purpose. I really don’t want to believe that. I just can’t.”
But Billy Bean is supporting his former team. The VP of Social Responsibility and Inclusion at the MLB, who is openly gay, tweeted a statement Sunday saying the Padres have “lead by example” and “have made every effort to include the LGBT community.” “I would hope,” he wrote “that the community recognizes that error and intent are not related.”
The Padres said they conducted an internal investigation and found “No evidence of malicious intent on the part of any individuals involved.” The team said they’d terminated their relationship with a third-party contractor who was responsible for the error. “The Padres organization is proud of our longstanding commitment to inclusion – with both our sport and our community,” the statement said.
The team apologized to the chorus and “to anyone in the ballpark who this may have offended,” and the game that started with an uncomfortable anthem ended after 17 innings with the Padres losing to the Dodgers 9-5.