Op Ed

Sports Speaks up on Gay Marriage; Time to Do So on Climate Change Denial


Last month, Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays signed on to a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to end state bans on same-sex marriage. The club said, in part, that support for gay marriage is “consistent with our values.”

Given the threat climate change poses to the state of Florida, and due to the pressure put on state employees to not use the terms “climate change” and “global warming”, it’s time for the Rays and the other pro and college teams in the state to speak out forcefully on climate change denial. 

The sports world’s strong statements against bans on same-sex marriage and against the controversial Indiana “Religious Freedom” law (which has been dialed back a bit) that many saw as a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians are, it says here, a very good thing.

Those statements are not surprising. Sports has long been intertwined with social movements and causes. Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier 68 years ago yesterday. Muhammad Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Billie Jean King advocated for and and helped win equal pay for women in tennis.

Now gay marriage is, pardon the pun, at the plate. It became legal in Florida in January 2015, one of 37 states to sanction the practice. Since it is banned in 13 other states, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments to settle gay marriage’s constitutionality on April 28, with a decision to be announced in June.

The Tampa Bay Rays, along with the San Francisco Giants and New England Patriots, signed a brief in support of ending the bans on gay marriage. Rays President Brian Auld, as quoted in the Tampa Bay Times on March 6, didn’t mince words: “Quite simply, [signing the brief] is the right thing to do…It is our belief that all employees should be treated as equals, both by our business and under the law. Support for this brief is wholly consistent with our corporate values.”

Two days later, another Florida newspaper, the Miami Herald, published a story that should provoke a statement from Auld at least as strong as his missive on gay marriage. His counterparts on other Florida pro and college sports teams need to weigh in as well.

That story, written by Tristam Korten was titled In Florida, Officials Ban Term ‘Climate Change’.

I am not making this up.

Korten’s piece details how “Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials have been ordered not to use the term ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.” A follow-up story revealed that other state agencies were subject to the same ban.

This unwritten policy, per Korten, “went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees.” Scott, who was reelected last November, used the “I’m not a scientist” dodge when asked about the topic during the fall campaign.


Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott (Photo credit: Miami Herald)

There might be some humor in this were it not for the fact Florida is one of the states most susceptible to the effects of global warming in the US, according to many scientists and scientific studies.

And, wait, there IS humor in this: Check out this 2:07 video from a recent Florida state senate hearing. A Florida state employee, discussing climate change, can’t bring himself to say the actual words, while his questioner from the State Senate, who is unencumbered by the ban, tries to come up with another phrase (“atmospheric re-employment?”).

So, you’ve got a state that is perhaps Ground Zero when it comes to climate change, but its own DEP, following orders by a climate change-denying Governor, bans its employees from using the term…”climate change.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Now, one might say, “this is crazy, but why should sports teams care?”

Well, to quote Rays’ President Auld, because it’s “consistent with our values”:

  • Free speech, including the right to publicly speak and write words that are not deemed obscene like “climate” and “change”, certainly must be consistent with the Rays’ (and Dolphins, Magic, Lighting, etc.) values
  • Having a habitable state of Florida must be consistent with the teams’ values. After all, it is a prerequisite to being able to play sports and attend sports events there. Dealing with climate change in Florida is an existential issue. Before you can deal with it, you have to be able to say the words “climate” and “change”.
  • Being smarter than your opponent to gain an edge is one of sports’ enduring tenets and, thus, has to be consistent with Florida sports teams’ values. In fact, in this age of Moneyball and advanced sports statistics, knowledge as power in sports is more pronounced than ever. How can Florida sports teams stay silent when the state in which they operate is choosing to limit knowledge, to dumb itself down?
  • GreenSportsBlog has detailed how the University of Florida is a leader in the greening of its football games. One would think that Jeremy Foley, the Gators’ Athletics Director, and an employee of the state, would say that prohibiting other state employees from saying “climate change” is inconsistent with their values.



Brian Auld Rays

Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld recently said that signing a brief in support of ending state bans on gay marriage was “consistent with our values.” Will the Rays and other Florida pro teams and college athletics programs say the same about the Florida’s unwritten ban on use of the term “climate change” or “global warming” on the part of some state employees? (Photo credit: Tampa Bay Online)

GreenSportsBlog has not been able to find any statements from any of the Florida sports teams protesting the ban on state employees using “climate change”.

We know, it was an unwritten rule, per Gov. Scott and his spokespeople. But there is enough concrete evidence out there to know that the ban was/is real—just like climate change itself is real. So, c’mon Florida sports teams, step up to the plate to say, 1) climate change is real, and 2) that state employees must be allowed to say “climate change” It is consistent with your values!



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  1. Great post, greensportsblog!
    The link between sports and social movements is fascinating, and I agree with you that renowned athletes have been able to play a tremendous role. Athletes are iconic figures and role models, I think more than people realize.
    I think it is vital that the conversation around climate change become louder. I hope the FL sports teams will read this!!! Great work.

  2. Thanks TSI. Know that GreenSportsBlog will be putting calls into the Rays and other clubs in the Sunshine State to see if they’ll comment.

  3. Step on in Florida is to start TALKING about the climate crisis. Once the free up the use of realistic words, I think that sports teams, businesses, universities and even the state government will come around. There is something Orwellian in the control of the language.

  4. oops, meant to type STEP ONE not step on… oh well…

  5. Orwellian–PERFECT–wish I’d have thought of that!

  6. […] to the stories that link sports to bigger, climate change issues–like our April 16 piece “Sports Speaks Up on Gay Marriage; Time to Do So On Climate Change Denial”. As Rachel Maddow often says, watch this […]

  7. Due to global warming we will have to face many big problem. This blog is aware us. Thanks !
    Global Warming Times

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