CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
The Pirate Parrot at a 2017 Pirates game
In the 2017 baseball offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away two star players in Andrew McCutchen
Cole. The fans were upset with Pirates management
and many Pittsburghers were gearing up for a disappointing season for the Buccos.
Then, for some, there was another reason this week to be upset with the Pirates. According to a tweet from Washington Post
reporter James Hohmann
, on March 8, Pirates president Frank Coonelly spoke in support of Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone
(R-Elizabeth), who is running for U.S. Congress in a special election on March 13 against Conor Lamb
(D-Mount Lebanon). According to Hohmann's tweet, Coonelly spoke at the Republican Party of Allegheny County's "Spirit of Lincoln" dinner in Green Tree on March 8 and he also brought the Pirate Parrot with him. The dinner served as a fundraising event for Saccone and featured President Donald Trump’s counsel Kellyanne Conway.
Regis McDevitt, a Pittsburgh resident and Pirate fan, wrote on Twitter on March 8 “@Pirates this is shameful,” in response to Hohmann’s tweet. McDevitt also tweeted that the Pirates should address Coonelly’s involvement with Saccone and wrote that “inserting the organization into a political argument is true cause for a boycott.”
Western Pennsylvania’s largest LGBTQ organization, the Delta Foundation, was also disappointed in the Pirates' apparent support for Saccone. The Pirates have hosted LGBTQ Pride events in the past. But, in a March 9 Facebook post, the Delta Foundation
wrote that while Coonelly is entitled to his political opinions, the inclusion of the Pirate Parrot at the event gave the impression that the Pirates organization supports Saccone, who has an anti-LGBTQ record as a state legislator.
“We are truly disappointed that Mr. Coonelly and Pirate Parrot attended this fundraiser last night and we look to resolve this situation,” wrote the Delta Foundation on Facebook.
In the past, Saccone has co-sponsored bills in the Pennsylvania legislature that would make it illegal for same-sex couples to get married. In his campaign for U.S. Congress, Saccone has been endorsed by CatholicVote.org, an anti-LGBTQ political organization, and is getting support from the Family Research Council, a political nonprofit that “does not consider homosexuality, bi-sexuality, and transgenderism as acceptable alternative lifestyles,” according the FRC website.
Dan Hart, the Pittsburgh Pirates head of communication, issued a statement to City Paper
that said Coonelly's and the Pirate Parrot's appearance at the Republican Party dinner wasn't political. Hart wrote that Coonelly didn't speak in support of Saccone.
"Last night's presentation and the Parrot appearance was wholly focused on promoting the Pittsburgh Pirates and the game of baseball, not a political candidate or agenda," wrote Hart in an email to CP
. "Frank [Coonelly] was asked months ago to speak at the Annual Spirit of Lincoln dinner to promote the Pittsburgh Pirates and the upcoming 2018 season. It was in no way, shape or form a political endorsement of any kind, as [Coonelly] would happily agree to speak to a meeting of the Allegheny County Democratic Party with the same non-partisan message promoting Pirates Baseball."
Hart also wrote that the Pirate Parrot often joins Pirates management at events to promote the team. Hart wrote that politics were not discussed during Coonelly's presentation. "It was 100% focused on Pirates baseball and the upcoming season," wrote Hart. "We would be happy to give the exact same presentation to an event organized by Democrats or Independents."
Hohmann’s tweet received more than 40 likes, but also received more than 140 replies, and the vast majority of those replies were negative. Some Pirates fans tweeted that Major League Baseball teams shouldn't be closely involved in politics, and that having the Pirates' official mascot present at a Republican fundraising dinner is untoward.
And other fans took the appearance as some sort of display of the Pirates' support for Saccone and wrote the appearance will make it easier for fans to drop support for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh resident Patrick Gianella wrote on Facebook: "Just when you think the Pirates haven’t pissed enough fans off they are now supporting Rick Saccone. Frank [Coonelly] and the Pirate Parrot attended his rally yesterday. Another PR nightmare!"
One Twitter user, David Harbin, tweeted on March 8 his displeasure with Pirates' involvement with local Republicans and hinted that the move tarnished the legacy of Roberto Clemente, one the country's first Latino baseball superstars and a Pirates Hall of Famer. Clemente was also a well-known humanitarian who supported the lives of impoverished Latin Americans and immigrants. The Pirates have also hosted welcoming events
for immigrants and refugees in the past.