Chicago, IL —
Earlier this month, when several Major League Baseball teams announced participation in a campaign to combat bullying and support LGBT kids, one major league fan was not surprised.
A decade ago, Chicagoan Bill Gubrud, working as an ad rep for a weekly LGBT newspaper, forged friendships within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field
. The Cubs committed to an ad campaign in the gay press, as well as worked with Gubrud on Out at the Ballgame, a gay day in the ballpark.
Gubrud, now a principal at MTM Chicago, has organized the event for the last decade, and is in the midst of preparing for Out at Wrigley, scheduled for July 17, when the Cubs host the Florida Marlins.
Lisa Neff from the Wisconsin Gazette
recently chatted with Gubrud about Major League support of the LGBT community.You are about a month away from putting on Out at the Ballgame at Wrigley. How has the public reception for this event changed?
Bill Gubrud: When it first started out in 2001, it was something no one ever expected – 2,000-plus members of the LGBT community at Wrigley Field
. It was a little subdued. But in the next two years, people carrying the gay flag through Wrigley Field
was a sight to see. I think, as the years have gone on, it has become more of an annual event for people to have fun at as opposed to a political statement. That was the intent of Out at the Ballgame – now Out at Wrigley – to feel welcome and not to be perceived as different.Do you think gay days have influenced how some teams have responded to anti-gay incidents in their parks?
I honestly and truly do believe that. After Out at the Ballgame at Wrigley happened, gay communities around the country – Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, as well as Toronto – started their own. I was getting calls from different communities asking how I did it and if I had advice for them.
I think that the baseball organizations started valuing and respecting the LGBT fans, and now will not stand for bigotry against them. Before OATB started, people were not kicked out of Wrigley for saying "fag," "faggot" or making gay jokes at players. Now, you can report it to security and it is treated like any racial slur.Now, MLB teams are participating in the It Gets Better campaign. When you started working with the Cubs on Out at the Ballgame, did you think the team would reach this point?
I dreamed it would and that was the goal from the beginning, for something like this to happen. But actually seeing it is kind of surreal for me. Professional ballplayers actually saying "stop bullying LGBT youth and it will get better" is just, I have no words to describe how I feel.Bullying takes place on fields and locker rooms. Do you see the message having much sway with high school athletes or kids playing pick-up games?
I think both will be influenced. Kids in high school and pick up games emulate pro athletes. When I was a kid, I would always try to imitate Bill Buckner or Ryne Sandberg – they were my sports idols. It hurts when you see a sports figure like Joakim Noah or Kobe Bryant use homophobic slurs. … Now we get to hear a reverse message from athletes – it is OK for you to be you and I accept you. Very powerful.Do you think you'll see an It Gets Better message from every team before the season wraps?
Would be nice, but not sure that will happen.Would you like to see Out at the Ballgame-type events throughout the league?
Yes, I would love to see all 30 teams having a gay day. We have an Out at Wrigley committee. … I think one day in the very near future we would like to help promote a gay day at all ballparks and in all sports.Are you interested in helping with the Brewers? Or helping a Milwaukee group get something going?
Of course, I would very much like to help. No rivalry when it comes to promoting acceptance of the LGBT community in professional sports. Heck, I helped with an out day at a White Sox game. Can't get any bigger rivalry than that. Well, OK, St. Louis I would have to think about. … Just kidding.The Chicago Cubs have invited Gubrud and Out at Wrigley to on their float for the second year in a row as part of the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday, June 26. Out at Wrigley will take place on Sunday, July 17, 2011. Visit outatwrigley.com for details.
Article provided in partnership with Wisconsin Gazette