‘Out at the Park’ becomes ‘Nightmare at Petco Park’

Last night’s annual ‘Out at the Park’ event turned into ‘Nightmare at Petco Park’ as the San Diego Gay Man’s Chorus took to the field to sing the National Anthem.

Instead of their voices, fans of the Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers heard a recorded voice of a woman singing the anthem, and when the group stepped off the field at the end of the song it was to taunts such as, “You sing like a girl,” according to a statement on the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Facebook page.

Within hours the Padres had apologized on Twitter calling the incident a “mistake in the control room.” However, the Gay Men’s Chorus were not happy stating, “No attempt was made to stop the recording and start over. No announcement of apology was made to the singers or their friends and families in the stands. No attempt to correct the situation occurred other than to force the 100 men to stand in the spotlight of center field for the song’s duration and then be escorted off the field to the heckles of baseball fans shouting homophobic taunts.”

According to the Gay Men’s Chorus, “This incident followed several days of troubling comments and behavior within the San Diego Padres organization. “Three days before the game, San Diego Padres representatives aggressively sought to prevent singers from performing the National Anthem unless they purchased a ticket to the game — even if they did not plan to stay for the game — which was not part of any previous discussion or written or verbal agreement and would have cost the small, community-based non-profit thousands of dollars. The demand eventually was rescinded on Friday following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.”

The Gay Men’s Chorus are demanding a full investigation and are calling on the Padres to determine if someone or some people intentionally engaged in anti-gay discrimination or a hate crime. The Chorus is also calling on the City of San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission to independently investigate the incident.

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus singer Dan England posted on Facebook, “I was just shocked someone didn’t stop the recording! Then there was no announcement saying sorry!  We just a stood there like fools, and then we were escorted off and out of the park. Definitely embarrassing.”

“We were just excited to be at a game and let the audience see us and hear us and let us know that we’re sports fans too, and we’re normal guys,” said RC Haus, artistic director for the Chorus. “And then a woman sings over us, and it was mortifying.”

“I really want to believe that it was an error,” said Bob Lehman, executive director of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus. “But the first thought was, did they do this on purpose?”

“I don’t want to live in a city where the LGBT community thinks the Padres hate them,” Lehman continued. “Even if it’s perception, it’s got to be fixed.”

The incident gained national and even international traction in media outlets ranging from the New York Daily News and USA Today, to the British publication The Daily Mail, reported the Union-Tribune.  People on both sides of the issue weighed in on Twitter, arguing whether the incident was offensive or the reaction to it overblown. The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus posted a musical video in support of their San Diego counterparts.