Bryan Ruby, an openly gay professional baseball player, is speaking out about the importance of inclusion after a handful of Tampa Bay Rays players opted out of participating in Pride Night last weekend.
“Discrimination and hate has a voice in baseball and you saw it in Tampa,” the 26-year-old recently told Insider.
“We have seen a lot of teams selling rainbow merchandise and doing Pride Nights, which is great, but they need to actually support their players,” he continued.
On Saturday, several Rays players elected not to wear rainbow logos for the team’s 16th annual Pride Night at Tropicana Field, per the Tampa Bay Times.
Rays pitcher Jason Adam told the Times that the decision was a “faith-based” one.
“A lot of it comes down to faith,” he explained to the outlet. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here.”
The 30-year-old told the Times he and others did not feel comfortable wearing the rainbow logos because “maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus.”
“[Jesus] encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like [Jesus] encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage — it’s no different,” he explained to the newspaper.
The Rays did not immediately respond when reached by PEOPLE on Thursday.
Ruby came out as gay last year while on the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, an independent baseball team, according to Insider.
“We get one night at the ballpark to be ourselves all year, and it just was an indication that a lot of people still believe that we just don’t belong there and that we are not welcome and, even on Pride Night, we’re still second-class citizens,” said Ruby, who is currently affiliated with the Nashville Stars baseball team.
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He added to USA Today: “It sends a very clear message, and that message is: LGBTQ people are not welcome here. A lot of guys just don’t get that they’ve always had, and will continue to have, gay teammates. Such antiquated language and behavior actively hurts the team. It’s hard enough to be gay in baseball.”
Though some players did not participate, others on the Tampa Bay roster had no issue proudly donning the rainbow logos on their uniforms, like center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
“It just shows that we want everyone to feel welcomed and included when you come to Tropicana Field and people are cheering us on,” he told MLB.com.
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“My parents taught me to love everyone as they are. Go live your life,” Kiermaier added. “Whatever your preferences are, go be you. … We just want everyone to feel welcomed and included and cheer us on.”
Ruby, who said he was “definitely very nervous” before publicly coming out in September last year, has spoken openly about the support he’s received from fans, friends, teammates, and loved ones since then.
“The reception was super positive. People in the stands waved a little rainbow flag and my teammates told me very clearly that they have my back,” Ruby, who is also a country singer, told the Tennessee Tribune on Thursday. “It just shows that different people can coexist in our sport.”
In addition to being an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Ruby also heads Proud to Be in Baseball, a non-profit organization whose mission is to assure “no queer person in baseball should ever feel alone.”