The Washington Nationals are battling the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball’s World Series, but they are now facing an even greater battle over charges of discrimination.
Whenever outfielder Gerardo Parra steps to the plate, the loudspeakers at Nationals Park blare the Baby Shark song, at his request. What began as a lark evolved into a rallying cry for the team as they fought for a playoff spot and reached the World Series. The entire team uses the various shark claps during the games, and tens of thousands of fans joyously do the same when the song is played.
And now, as this continues on baseball’s greatest stage, many victimized minorities find themselves humiliated and left out.
There are various versions of the Baby Shark song, but the lyrics of the first few stanzas go as follows:
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Baby shark.
Mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Mommy shark.
Daddy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Daddy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Daddy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Daddy shark.
Grandma shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandma shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandma shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandma shark.
Grandpa shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandpa shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandpa shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, Grandpa shark.
Brittany S., who was born as a female in a male body, was shocked the first time she experienced this at a Nationals game. “I felt that thirty-thousand fans were mocking me. I felt violated, shamed, and threatened.”
Brittany wasn’t alone. An increasing number of fans and activists have been speaking out about this offensive song being played at the games, which excludes people with non-binary genders and differing family structures. Their first attempts to contact the Nationals’ front office went nowhere, so they decided to go public.
“We have to fight for our rights,” said Kim G., a self-identified mostly female lesbian most of the time, who lives with a gender-fluid partner and shares custody of a child who they say is not gender specific at this time. “When we come to enjoy a baseball game and support our team, we shouldn’t be discriminated against.”
The group of victims started waging protests outside the stadium and quickly garnered media attention, which has been universally sympathetic to their plight, of course. Local politicians joined them at these protests urging equality for all, and soon there were rallies all over the country. Many protestors held signs stating things like “All Sharks Are Created Equal” and “Free Palestine”.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement saying that “The Washington Nationals organization has always supported inclusion and diversity, and we welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue with our fans to insure that everyone feels comfortable and safe at our games.”
The protestors were not satisfied with this response, which they considered weak and insensitive, and urged for Rizzo and other high-ranking members of the organization to be fired. All this time, the Baby Shark song has continued to be played at the games, enraging those who are marginalized by it.
“It’s been devastating for me,” said Steve F., a gay student at Georgetown University. “My children will never have a Mommy Shark. So what? They will have two Daddy Sharks instead, or maybe one Daddy Shark, or maybe something else entirely. It’s all the same. But the song doesn’t reflect that. The message we are telling society is that unless you have a Mommy Shark and a Daddy Shark, with Grandma and Grandpa Sharks, then there is something wrong with you, and you don’t belong.
“I can’t focus on my classes anymore,” continued Steve. “I can barely function. All I can do is stay in my room and vent my anger on social media.”
As the controversy around the issue spread, there was even disturbing pushback from the bigots and fascists in our society. Comedian Jack O’Day posted on Twitter that “maybe there should be a Gay Shark, and a Lesbian Shark, and a Transgender Shark, and a Queer Shark, and a Confused Shark, and a Pool Shark, and a Loan Shark, just to cover all the bases.”
Fortunately, O’Day was flooded with outraged responses and death threats, forcing him to remove the Tweet and issue an apology. This was not nearly enough to undo the pain and damage caused by his ignorant Tweet, however, and the activists hope O’Day’s career will be ruined, his life destroyed, and that he and his family will be forced to go into hiding. It’s the only way to fight intolerance.
Even though O’Day is still being served in some restaurants, according to reports, and has not been harassed enough to bring total capitulation, it seems the Nationals organization has finally gotten the message. Parra has said that his walk-up song will be replaced with a rap against the racist police. Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman has said hearing the Baby Shark song now makes him feel less like a man, “and that’s a good thing.”
Most importantly, the front office has agreed to hire a Sensitivity Officer to make sure something like this never happens again. “We’ve learned a lot as individuals and as an organization,” said Rizzo, noting that he is hopeful his penance will be accepted. “We will continue to learn more as our society continues to progress. The Sensitivity Officer will serve as a liaison to the diverse communities in our society, and will guide us in making sure that we comply with everything they ever need and desire.”
The Nationals players and ownership also agreed to donate several millions of dollars to organizations that increase awareness and tolerance, and to compensate any fans who feel they were harmed by the Baby Shark song in any way.
“I can’t say it’s everything I hoped for,” said Steve, the gay Georgetown student. “But it’s a start. We all know we will have to continue to fight, forever, for ourselves and for the future.”
With this important victory against the intolerance of the Baby Shark song and its hateful supporters, we can be sure that the future is very bright indeed.
Note: The above story did not really happen. But it could have, had I not been the one to think of it first.