Dodgers apologize and invite Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Pride Night

PARIS, ILE DE FRANCE, FRANCE - 2021/06/27: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence pose for a photo during.
Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attend a Gay Pride event in Paris in June 2021. The Dodgers have re-invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to their Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on June 16 after initially canceling their appearance. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Less than a week after removing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from their lineup, the Dodgers on Monday re-invited the organization to Pride Night amid backlash from LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups as well as local politicians and even Dodgers employees.

"The Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their friends and families," the Dodgers said in a statement. "We have asked the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night."

The Los Angeles Sisters say they’ve accepted the apology from Dodgers leadership over the decision Wednesday to dump them from Pride Night under pressure from conservative Catholic groups. The Sisters said they will indeed be honored with the Community Hero Award they originally were to receive.

“We’re happy to receive it,” said Sister Unity, a founding member of the Los Angeles order. “Our community is concerned with performative allyship, but we believe this is very sincere. The Dodgers invited us to have a continuing relationship with them.”

The announcement came after a marathon meeting with the Sisters' L.A. leadership, top Dodgers brass, California elected officials and local LGBTQ+ organizations. What nearly became a fiasco instead morphed into a groundswell of community support for the Sisters, including an invitation from the mayor of Anaheim to join her for the Angels’ Pride Night.

Sister Unity compared her reaction to what many experience after coming out.

“There’s this feeling afterward that’s a little bit of elation, and it settles into a calm contentment that you are safe,” she said. “People on the other side of the country feel free to sling epithets. But people who talk with us, including the Dodgers, learn what is real.”

Pride Night is scheduled for June 16 at Dodger Stadium during a game against the San Francisco Giants. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a satirical performance and activist organization with a decades-long history of raising awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes while providing comfort and resources to AIDS patients and unhoused queer and trans youth.

L.A. Pride, the group that will stage a week-long LGBTQ+ celebration culminating in a parade June 11 that drew nearly 150,000 last year, is the Dodgers' longtime Pride Night collaborator.

“The Dodgers have taken a good first step toward their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community by renewing their invite to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at next month’s Pride Night," L.A. Pride said in a statement. "We fully support the Sisters receiving their much-deserved Community Hero Award and will stand in solidarity with them at Pride Night. They continue to inspire us with their grace."

When the Dodgers originally announced that the Sisters would be honored in a pregame ceremony, the conservative Catholic League and CatholicVote protested, saying the Sisters’ long history of lampooning church traditions amounted to bigotry.

R.M. Vierling, a Catholic priest with a large social media following, posted on Twitter that he had written to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred about “this outrageous insult to Catholics” and listed Manfred’s email address online.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also sent a letter to Manfred expressing dismay that the Dodgers would honor the Sisters.

The Dodgers and the commissioner’s office in New York were inundated with calls and emails that two Dodgers employees familiar with the team’s thinking said were a factor in the decision not to give the Sisters the Community Hero Award, which in 2019 went to the L.A. LGBT Center and in 2017 to three Purple Heart recipients during Military Appreciation Night.

"They caught people off guard; we had to handle the phones and get yelled at on the front lines," said one of the employees, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. "It sends everyone in a tizzy."

People in Dodgers colors and Pride colors walk into an entrance at a baseball stadium.
Fans attend Pride Night at Dodger Stadium in June 2022. (Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images)

However, the outrage triggered by that decision threatened to derail Pride Night entirely, an outcome unacceptable to the Dodgers, whose senior vice president for marketing, communications and broadcasting, Erik Braverman, is gay and a respected voice in championing LGBTQ+ acceptance throughout baseball. He spearheaded the implementation of Dodgers Pride Night in 2013.

“As it stands now, we’d lose our Pride Night,” one of the employees who requested anonymity said Thursday, the day the Dodgers cut ties with the Sisters. “I don’t know how we’d come back from that.”

Dodgers staffers across all sexual orientations were vocal in their dismay.

"We knew the Sisters would react, but we didn’t have a feel for how swift and strong the response was going to be and how it would pull in others," an employee said. "And a lot of employees are upset."

The L.A. LGBT Center demanded the Dodgers reverse course or cancel Pride Night altogether. The ACLU posted on Twitter, "In unity with @SFSisters, we will not participate in Pride Night," and L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath tweeted, "If they’re not invited, I’m not going. Celebrating Pride is about inclusion. Do better."

L.A. City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, posted on Twitter: "Los Angeles must be a place where everyone feels empowered to express themselves, and this move undermines that."

Support for the Sisters continued. On Friday, the L.A. County Delegation (LACD), a group of 39 members of the California State Senate and State Assembly, expressed support, saying in a statement that the Community Hero Award would celebrate the Sisters' "countless hours of community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, in addition to promoting human rights and respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. These are values that should be celebrated, not suppressed.”

On Saturday, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken tweeted that she was inviting the Sisters to join her for Angels Pride Night at Anaheim Stadium on June 7.

Now it appears the Sisters will be guests at two Pride Nights in nine days.

"We are pleased to share that they have agreed to share the gratitude of our collective communities for the lifesaving work they have done tirelessly for decades," the Dodgers statement said. "In the weeks ahead we will continue to work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind, and use our platform to support all of our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodger family."

For weeks a page on the L.A. Pride website bore the headline “LA Pride Partners with Dodgers for 10th Annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night," and provided information about the event. On Friday the URL instead went to a page that read: "Oh snap! 404! The page you’re looking for doesn’t exist. Sorry!"

After the Dodgers’ decision to bring back the Sisters to their Pride Night roster, the link was restored.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.