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MLB, Pirates support LGBT youth

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
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'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' goes purple for Spirit Day on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at Z100 Studio in New York City.

Major League Baseball's support of Spirit Day sparked debates Thursday on the Facebook pages of the Pirates and the 29 other big league teams.

Spirit Day supporters wore purple to take a stand against bullying and show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. MLB teams took part by putting a purple border around their avatars on their Twitter accounts and mentioning Spirit Day over Facebook.

There also was a special scoreboard announcement about Spirit Day during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Every MLB team's Facebook page included some form of this post, which appeared on the Pirates' page: “Stand up against bullying and stick up for LGBT youth by going purple for #SpiritDay 1017.”

By early evening, the Pirates' post had drawn more than 450 comments and 2,200 “likes.”

Many of those posting comments focused on the antibullying message. But there also were clashes by gay rights supporters and those who worried that MLB and the Pirates are promoting the gay lifestyle. One comment, “I don't have to accept their perversion. It's sick and twisted,” was followed by “The posts in this thread are why religion needs to die.”

Among the comments from supporters were: “This post makes me even prouder to be a Pirates fan! Go Bucs!” and “Thank you for a wonderful season and thank you so very much for standing up to bullying.”

Other Facebook users, however, seemed confused or even upset. One comment said: “How about you post about baseball and not politics! Bullying isn't just happening to LGBT youth! What about the poor, the mentally challenged, the Christians, the Jews and any other group of people who are ‘different.' ”

Another: “Ummm worst Pirates post ever. Talk about baseball.”

In 2006, October was designated National Bullying Prevention Month. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organized Spirit Day in 2010 and designated purple as its affiliated color.

MLB spokesman Matt Bourne did not respond directly to questions about involvement in Spirit Day but issued this statement: “This is a well-intentioned initiative that we also participated in last year and is supported by other sports leagues, media companies and corporations. We fully support the spirit of efforts to bring an end to bullying.”

The Pirates' participation in Spirit Day was not the first time the club reached out to the gay community. In August, the Pirates donated 100 tickets to youth and families from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network who signed the Team Respect Pledge. The pledge is part of a national program aimed at building safe environments for LGBT student-athletes.

“Bullying is a serious issue,” Pirates spokesman Brian Warecki said. “We are pleased to join Major League Baseball and the other 29 teams in this league-wide initiative to help call attention to this subject. There is no place in our society for bullying anyone for any reason, and we encourage those that have been a victim of bullying to come forward and seek help.”

There were similar posts left on the Facebook pages of other MLB teams. On the St. Louis Cardinals' page, one supporter wrote: “How is this political or religious? I see this as just a being-a-decent-person type of statement.”

A poster on the Braves' page commented: “I'm all for anti-bullying, but those kids need Jesus, not encouragement to pursue that lifestyle. I will love people for who they are and encourage them to find hope in Christ and will definitely rally against bullying, but I will not celebrate sin!”

The team's post on the Cincinnati Reds' page said simply, “Stand up against bullying by going purple for #SpiritDay 1017” and did not mention LGBT youth. It had more than 1,300 “likes” but garnered fewer than 50 comments.

MLB offered no explanation for why the Reds' post differed from those on other teams' Facebook pages.

At least two of the replies on the Reds page were tongue-in-cheek. One read: “Ravens and Vikings fans wear purple. Therefore, I don't own any purple clothing!” Another said: “Yeah, Reds, hear that? Stand up to BULLIES like the CARDINALS (and) PITTSBURGH! ok?”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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