The Chicago White Sox will not be a part of the 35th annual Gay Softball World Series to the extent that local organizers had hoped, but it appears the team may support the event to some degree.
Series 2011, Inc. extended a formal invitation to Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to attend the opening day of the 2011 Gay Softball World Series ( GSWS ) on Tuesday, Aug. 30, following an anti-gay incident involving Beckham. The Beckham incident followed an anti-gay slur by Chicago Bulls' player Joakim Noah during the NBA playoffs.
Reinsdorf owns the White Sox and Bulls.
During a July 4 game at U.S. Cellular Field against the Kansas City Royals, Beckham left a message near his position for former teammate and friend Chris Getz, who plays for the Royals, which said: "GETZ IS GAY! GB"
Scott Reifert, senior vice president of communications for the White Sox, replied on behalf of the team. He said that Beckham and Reinsdorf will not be able to attend "because a White Sox home game conflicts with your Gay Softball World Series."
Reifert added: "Gordon very quickly realized the inappropriateness of his action and very willingly apologized publicly. I spoke to Gordon about the issue several times, can assure you he learned a very important lesson from the experience and that his apology was heartfelt and sincere."
Reifert also offered several other options, including Beckham taping a video message for the opening ceremony or having a White Sox representative, such as former player Ron Kittle, attend. In addition, Reifert offered to donate signed sports memorabilia and tickets to White Sox games.
"The intent of our invitation was to turn a bad situation into something educational and positive," said Ted Cappas, president of Series 2011-Chicago, Inc. "We included Mr. Reinsdorf because this is his second athlete that has made an anti-gay slur in the last three months. By no means do we hold Mr. Reinsdorf accountable for the actions of these grown men, but, as a civic and community leader, and owner of the White Sox and Bulls, Mr. Reinsdorf should publicly condemn these actions. Until management and ownership hold their athletes accountable, these incidents will continue."
The White Sox replied less than a week after the invitation from local organizers was received. The Sox play at home Monday-Tuesday, Aug. 29-30, with both games starting at 7:10 p.m. The invitation was for Beckham and Reinsdorf to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 10 a.m.
Cappas replied to Reifert, expressing gratitude for a quick response and asking for further involvement from the White Sox. Cappas has proposed the White Sox match the support the Chicago Cubs have given the World Series, and to donate to Ben Cohen's Stand Up Foundation, which raises awareness and funding for anti-gay bullying. Cohen will attend the opening ceremony at Navy Pier Aug. 28.
"Hopefully, Gordon fully understands how hurtful his actions were," Cappas wrote to Reifert. "Though he has apologized, his actions perpetuate homophobia in professional sports, which unfortunately trickles down into society. How are young gay men and boy athletes supposed to feel when professional athletes use anti-gay slurs? For adults like myself, though these words and actions still sting, I am confident enough to put them behind me. But unfortunately for gay youth, these types of words and actions sting much deeper and leave a longer lasting scar.
"At its basic level, the Gay Softball World Series is about softball teams competing for a championship. But in addition, LGBT tournaments like this are also about sportsmanship, community and acceptance."
Cappas said the offer of a team representative, such as Kittle, attending the opening day of play is generous, "but the purpose of inviting Gordon and Mr. Reinsdorf was to educate them on the LGBT sports community. Ron Kittle did not say or do anything offensive and he doesn't own the team.
"By visiting and experiencing the World Series, Gordon and Mr. Reinsdorf would not only personally see the normalcy of a gay sporting tournament, but also send a positive message to younger gay athletes and the community."