The Hershey Bears, top minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals, told GLAAD this week the team would be taking steps to put a stop to anti-gay taunts from fans.
The incidents were brought to the team’s attention by Bears fan Abigail Habbert. Habbert and her partner are season ticket holders, and noticed in January that some fans were taunting opponents with anti-gay slurs, game after game. Rather than sit quietly (and really, who sits quietly at a hockey game?) Abigail spoke up. She reached out to the manager of season tickets for the Bears, who sent her complaint to the head of security for the stadium.
Despite extra security measures, and the team speaking with the parties believed to be at fault, the taunts continued. Abigail reached out to GLAAD, and this week it was discovered that the team had actually been speaking with the wrong fans. The head of stadium security told us they’ve found the actual parties responsible for night after night of homophobic slurs being shouted. He also agreed to implement a similar system to what the New York Yankees did last year, after we brought a similar situation to their attention. Hershey Entertainment Complex Security Director Jason White told us his crew will soon be working on an announcement that will play during games, warning fans that discriminatory conduct or language will not be tolerated.
The way LGBT acceptance is seen throughout the sports landscape is changing rapidly, and for the better. I was struck during my conversations with White about how he kept referring to a need to keep Bears’ games “family friendly,” and why clamping down on homophobic attitudes would help him acheive this goal. The Hershey Bears understand that there is no place in sports for anti-gay attitudes, and should be a model for other teams to follow.
We cannot thank Abigail enough for standing up. It was her efforts in speaking to team and stadium officials that led to this victory, and it’s thanks to her that thousands of her fellow Bears fans will be able to enjoy games for years to come, without having to endure a constant onslaught of anti-gay slurs. We also thank the Bears and Hershey Entertainment Complex officials for recognizing the importance of putting a stop to this type of behavior, and for having taken steps to correct it long before GLAAD became involved – and we wish the Bears luck in the AHL division semi-finals, which begin tomorrow night!