In the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre -- the deadliest shooting in the U.S. that targeted members of the LGBTQ community -- one collegiate summer baseball league team is trying to endear themselves to both LGBTQ supporters and firearms lovers this June.
Michigan's Battle Creek Bombers' promotional nights supported LGBTQ causes and, more controversially, gun ownership in the same week. As general manager Tony Iovieno of the Bombers, the team hosting the event, told TMZ on Friday, "You can't please everyone."
Two days after hosting Pride Night, the Bombers' Gun Night on Friday has been billed as both "Gun Safety & Education Night" and "2nd Amendment Education Night." Essentially, the Bombers' promotion invites fans to openly bring their guns to the game, inviting scrutiny from gun violence prevention advocates for inappropriately "glorifying guns" so recently after a mass shooting.
"There are always going to be folks who don’t agree with what we do," he said. "We just had LGBT Pride Night the other night, and some people didn’t like that either. You can’t please everyone."
Boy Scouts and fans with firearms will mingle at Friday night's Bombers game.
Iovieno told the Battle Creek Enquirer on Friday that the team doesn't have a political stance on firearms, and called recent mass shootings "horrific," but added that he wants the night to spark conversation about gun violence.
"Who am I to take an odd political stance and say we can’t do that?" he said to the Enquirer. "I don’t think that’s the role I have or what I should be doing. But I like that this is sparking a conversation because it’s a conversation that should be had."
The gun control conversation is happening in Washington, on television and at the dinner table. But by inviting thousands of guns into a stadium, the Bombers are absolutely taking a political stance. Just as a team wouldn't host a Pride Night during June's Pride Month if they didn't support LGBTQ rights, throwing a "2nd Amendment Education Night" in partnership with gun shop Freedom Firearms during Gun Violence Awareness Month is telling.
Peeling back the team's specious claims, teaching young people about gun safety for one night at a baseball game is a poorly veiled educational attempt. In reality, they're hosting a politicized gun rally. If they truly wanted to show a genuine attempt at gun education, the Bombers should've held "Gun Night" on June 2, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The team's home game on June 2 was $2 beer night.
"It's as American as baseball and apple pie," Joel Fulton, co-owner of Freedom Firearms, said of the promotion to MLive.com on Thursday. "And firearms are part of the fabric of our society."
Defending the tonight's promotion, Iovieno addressed "misconceptions" about the event to TMZ. Noting that Michigan is an open carry state with a "different culture" to big U.S. cities, he said that he hopes the event will promote firearm safety. Displays from Freedom Firearms and the NRA's kid-targeted Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program will be placed throughout the stadium. In a state with a gun culture, as Iovieno stated, however, outright gun pride may overtake gun safety education at the game.
Claiming that the night had been planned months ago, Iovieno said that ticketed fans who don't wish to attend can exchange them. Extra police will be on hand for security as an obvious precaution. As for the sellout crowd, fans bringing guns will receive a wristband preventing them from buying alcohol and trigger locks for safety.
With so many armed civilians, or "good guys with guns," the Bombers' stadium will undoubtedly be the safest place in the United States on Friday night.