AR Briefly

Arkansas LGBTQ group cancels minor league baseball event after drag queen denied first pitch

By: - September 15, 2022 6:49 pm

A Central Arkansas LGBTQ advocacy group canceled its participation in an Arkansas Travelers game Thursday after the team did not allow a drag queen to throw the first pitch, the organization said in a Facebook post.

Central Arkansas Pride was set to host its second Out Days, in which members of the local LGBTQ community would sing the national anthem and throw the first pitch before the minor league baseball game at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

The advocacy group’s choice for the first pitch was Kitty Kouture, a drag queen from Little Rock and “someone we felt was a good model in our community and highlighted the values we wanted to portray,” Central Arkansas Pride Executive Director Zack Baker said.

Travelers officials told Central Arkansas Pride leaders “this wouldn’t be the right year” for a drag queen to be on the field, but said another member of the LGBTQ community would be welcome to throw the first pitch, Baker said.

“Our stance is you either accept all of us or none of us,” he said.

The organization refunded about 30 game tickets it had sold before announcing the cancellation on Facebook Thursday morning, Baker said.

“Our goal is to promote diversity and visibility with Out Days events and we felt we needed to stay true to that mission,” the Facebook post stated. “We hope that we can find ways to work together in the future and we also hope that you all understand why we came to this decision.”

Several comments on the post praised Central Arkansas Pride’s decision and expressed disappointment in the Travelers organization.

The Travelers “have and always will be a place for ALL fans,” the team said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“Although we have enjoyed working with them in preparation for an event in 2022, we respect and understand their decision to cancel their event this season,” the statement read. “We will continue to create a safe and welcoming environment for all fans entering Dickey-Stephens Park and look forward to working with Central Arkansas Pride in the future.”

Thursday’s Out Days event was going to be the first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) threw the first pitch at the first Out Days in 2019. Baker said Central Arkansas Pride sold about 150 tickets, many of which were purchased the day of the event.

The Arkansas Travelers are the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners host Pride Night every year in June and donate $5 per ticket to a scholarship fund within the Greater Seattle Business Association, the country’s largest LGBTQ-focused chamber of commerce.

Central Arkansas Pride leaders contacted the Mariners’ office about the Travelers’ decision but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon, said Dolores Wilk, the organization’s parade director.

Baker said the Travelers’ decision shows “there’s a lot to be done” for public acceptance of LGBTQ people.

“There’s still a large portion of our community, especially the trans community, that faces discrimination, and our goal is to educate and work with different corporations and organizations to figure out how we can all come together to support each other,” he said.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.