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LGBTQ donation drive gives fans an out to root for Cubs, not Daniel Murphy

When Daniel Murphy went to bat during the Cubs’ wild-card game Tuesday night, no one at or around Wrigley Field seemed fixated on anything other than a win.

But for some fans in the LGBTQ community and their allies, Murphy’s past comments about “disagreeing” with homosexuality made the second baseman’s August move to the Cubs complicated. As fans thought about how to support the team late in the season without supporting the politics of one player, a grassroots effort to donate to LGBTQ causes in Murphy’s name gained traction.

Now that the season has fizzled, dozens of fans are tallying the infielder’s season stats and donating to the Center on Halsted — a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center in Chicago.

Sarah Howgate, 36, of the Lincoln Square neighborhood, made a spreadsheet and sent in a final donation of more than $150.

“It’s a serious commitment,” she said. “You don’t feel great about cheering, but you feel good that somebody’s going to get something out of it.”

Howgate said she has donated to causes because of other players on the team as well, including former closer Aroldis Chapman, and most recently shortstop Addison Russell, both of whom were accused of domestic abuse. Russell on Wednesday received a 40-game suspension without pay.

“At this point, I’ve spent more money donating to causes than I have on tickets this year,” Howgate said. “You shouldn’t have to do that for a team you love.”

The Center on Halsted has received about $800 from fans as far away as Alaska, according to Chief Development Officer (and Cubs fan) Michael Anderson.

“Words have an impact,” Anderson said. “When folks do put money behind their values, I think that does speak volumes.”

Several contributors have called it “The Big Gay Daniel Murphy Donation Drive.” Other groups are collecting similar donations.

Anderson said he is very much for the First Amendment and free speech. “But I also think, particularly in situations like this, they need to understand there are negative consequences in the community,” he said.

In 2015, Murphy was a member of the New York Mets when Billy Bean, MLB’s ambassador for inclusion, visited the team’s spring training camp.

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said at the time. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them, but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

When Murphy played his first game at Wrigley Field in August after being traded by the Nationals, he received an ovation. As the 2015 comments resurfaced, the team stood by Murphy, who reportedly developed a friendship with Bean. Laura Ricketts, an LGBTQ activist who is the first openly gay owner of a professional sports team, took to Twitter to voice her support for the deal.

But some Cubs fans thought Murphy failed to sufficiently address concerns about his previous comments.

When asked what message Murphy had for gay fans who say they won’t root for the Cubs as long as he’s wearing their uniform, he said, “Oh, dear. I would hope that you would root for the Cubs.”

The annual “Out at Wrigley” day was slated to take place a few days after his statement.

Bill Gubrud, founder and organizer of “Out at Wrigley,” said ticket sales spiked and the community mobilized after Murphy’s comments.

“I should send a thank you letter to Daniel Murphy,” Gubrud said.

“He could have easily said, ‘You know, those were my comments three years ago. I’m keeping my comments to myself and I apologize for hurting people.’ But he stepped out and said, ‘Oh, dear, I hope they root for us.’ That irked people a little bit.”

Gubrud said he still roots for the Cubs and appreciates the support the Ricketts family has given to LGBTQ causes. But he doesn’t root for Murphy.

“It’s a very fine line to walk, and it’s hard,” he said. “But that’s what not just me, but many LGBT Cubs fans had to do.”

In an emailed statement, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said, “We never take our fans’ support for granted and they are an important part of our success. They also have incredible passion and we’re happy their organized effort to support our team and the LGBTQ community is being directed to the Center on Halsted, a great organization we have supported for years.”

Longtime Cubs fan Joel Wassner, 30, of South Bend, Ind., said because supporting Murphy didn’t align with his principals, he wanted to do something.

“Sports are inseparable from politics sometimes,” he said.

Wassner posted his personal plan on Reddit to donate to the Center on Halsted $1 for every home run hit by Murphy, 75 cents for each triple, 50 cents for a double and 25 cents for a single. The pledge caught on. A number of fans said they would double or triple those amounts.

“I hope maybe this could change some minds,” Wassner said. “I know that there’s a lot of people, especially within the baseball community, that still have a close-minded mindset. There isn’t somebody in baseball that’s out.”

Wassner said some Reddit users plan to send one large donation to the Center on Halsted in the coming days.

Some fans compared the donations to previous boycotts of companies perceived to be anti-LGBTQ — like Chick-fil-A or Cracker Barrel — as well as the growing conversations about what it means to support an artist’s work when you don’t support the artist’s politics or behavior.

“This whole thing brings up a really interesting concept of professional sports and who you support,” said Cubs fan Shane Schubbe, 32, of Humboldt Park, who planned to donate to the Center on Halsted. “I don’t personally align with most of the Ricketts family’s policies, but I still love the Cubs.”

Schubbe said he wanted Murphy to help the team do well but found his comments hurtful.

“So having someone stand up and say, ‘Here’s a way we can make this work for everyone,’ was really great.”

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