Dave Roberts has been called a lot of things during his time as the Dodgers’ manager, and for the most part the mild-mannered skipper has ignored the peanut gallery. However being called a bigot wasn’t something Roberts was willing to let slide.
“I love everyone and everyone is entitled to make their own decisions,” Roberts said. “I’m not here to judge.”
It all started when word spread that Roberts, a devout Christian, had agreed to be the keynote speaker for a fundraiser in support of the Kern County Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The FCA was one of the faith-based organizations that recently lost financial support from the Chick-fil-A Foundation after the philanthropic wing of the restaurant chain announced it was focusing its efforts on education, homelessness and hunger. The foundation had been under fire for years for its financial support of anti-LGBTQ organizations, including the National Christian Foundation, which was connected to the so-called Kill the Gays bill in Uganda in 2014. When Chick-fil-A announced it was going global, the foundation’s spending habits again were under fire.
All of which brings us to Roberts and his talk.
Nestled in the FCA’s nine-point Statement of Faith policy: “We believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.” There is also a sexual-purity requirement for employees and volunteers that also targets LGBTQ people.
It’s easy to see how someone can see Roberts’ face on a poster promoting the FCA fundraiser and assume he shares the organization’s values.
“I didn’t know about their bylaws prior to committing,” he said. “It was something once I committed to, I wanted to see it through. My goal was to share my faith with fellow believers, and I live in a world where I try not to judge people for their beliefs and hope that they don’t judge me for mine.”
Roberts, who said he has several family members and friends who are not heterosexual, did not plan to bring up the issue of intolerance in his speech directly, but instead wanted to talk about the importance of inclusiveness. For some that may sound like a copout, but to Erik Braverman, the team’s vice president of marketing and broadcasting who came out in 2015, it was perfectly reasonable.
“We’ve established a culture at the Dodgers and we truly do practice what we preach,” Braverman said. “Inclusive means all. We are as proud of our LGBTQ night as we are of our Christian faith night, and they are equally successful.”
Braverman told me that when he came out, others within the organization also shared their truths with him. He said he also was supported by former players, and owner Magic Johnson, whose son E.J. is gay, tweeted his support.
In addition, tennis legend and gay-rights activist Billie Jean King is part of the Dodgers’ ownership group. If Roberts secretly hates gay people, he has an interesting way of showing it.
“My faith plays a role every single day,” he said. “With my job and the expectations and the scrutiny I’m under day to day, it’s something that I don’t know how I would survive without it. It’s a place I can go to regularly and not succumb to the pressures or take things personally. It’s something that provides a lot of stability in my life.”
And something Roberts, who said he is not against same-sex marriage, should not be ashamed of.
As someone who identifies as a Christian, I appreciate the boldness in which Roberts, who credits his walk with Jesus Christ with helping him during his cancer scare, talks about his faith. And as someone who is gay, I also appreciate his big-tent sensibility.
It isn’t easy being the manager of a professional baseball team. It’s even harder trying to do so in a “cancel culture” that routinely runs a public person’s values through purity tests driven by faceless protesters on social media.
As more and more multibillion-dollar corporations merge and become conglomerates, it is becoming nearly impossible to eat, drink or enjoy a sporting event without some aspect of the overseeing body being connected to something disagreeable.
After it was discovered Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was throwing a fundraiser for President Trump, many liberals wanted mass boycotts of two of Ross’ businesses, Equinox and SoulCycle. When Nike supported Colin Kaepernick, some conservatives tried to do the same.
It’s not a bad strategy to want to hit companies in the pocketbook when they are doing something you don’t approve of. But policing thought is counterproductive.
While one can see how Roberts’ appearance at the FCA fundraiser can be viewed as a slap in the face of LGBTQ advocates, one also can see an LGBTQ advocate sharing his thoughts on what God’s kingdom should look like to Christians who may not agree.
“I’m the first one to tell you I have more flaws than anyone,” Roberts said. “So I live my life trying to love and not judge people. ... It’s a personal relationship with God. ... That means it’s personal.”