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Gerald Garth, left, stands with members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Unity, center, and Sister Dominia as they were honored during LGBTQ+ Pride Night prior to the Dodgers game, June 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP) Gerald Garth, left, stands with members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Unity, center, and Sister Dominia as they were honored during LGBTQ+ Pride Night prior to the Dodgers game, June 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Gerald Garth, left, stands with members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Unity, center, and Sister Dominia as they were honored during LGBTQ+ Pride Night prior to the Dodgers game, June 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone June 19, 2023
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman June 19, 2023

Did Dodgers play to empty stadium after honoring LGBTQ+ activists who parody nuns? Evidence says no

If Your Time is short

  • The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a satirical and charity group that dresses in drag as nuns and raises funds and awareness about AIDS. Critics of the group say it is disrespectful to parody the Catholic religion.
     

  • The group was invited to receive a community award from the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 16 during a Pride Night event at the stadium. The award was bestowed about an hour before the first pitch.
     

  • Some people shared images of the mostly empty stadium during the award ceremony and falsely conflated that with poor attendance during the game. There were about 49,000 tickets sold for the game, slightly higher than this year’s average home Dodgers crowd. The stadium’s total capacity is 56,000.

The Los Angeles Dodgers spent the last month mired in controversy after inviting, then disinviting, and then re-inviting a LGBTQ+ nun parody group for its June 16 Pride Night game.

The controversy drew some protesters to Dodger Stadium before the game, and the group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was honored before mostly empty stands. That led some people, including Florida's Republican governor, to falsely claim that the event caused a large fan boycott.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was among those who shared images on social media suggesting that the group’s appearance at the stadium resulted in poor attendance at the game. Similar statements along with images of a mostly empty stadium were shared on Facebook.

"Good on the thousands who showed up at Dodger Stadium to protest this anti-Catholic hate group," DeSantis tweeted June 17, the night after the Dodgers game against the visiting San Francisco Giants. "The virtually empty stadium for the game itself was a powerful image — Americans are fed up with the nonsense and are fighting back."

DeSantis’ tweet linked to a New York Post article that said thousands of protesters demonstrated outside of the stadium. But the event to honor the group was held "about an hour before the first pitch," the article said. The New York Post included an AP image, and the Post wrote, "The stands were left mostly empty during the pre-game Pride Night event honoring the Sisters."

The tweet by DeSantis earned a community note from users who pointed out the earlier timing of the photo before the game and that 49,074 tickets were sold. Major League Baseball attendance is routinely reported as tickets sold. The stadium’s capacity is 56,000.

The San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, left, scores as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith misses the throw during the eighth inning of their game June 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP)

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, formed in 1979, is a satirical and charity group that dresses in drag as nuns and raises funds and awareness about AIDS. Opponents of the group say it is offensive to parody Catholic nuns or figures central to Catholicism, such as its Hunky Jesus contest. The group’s website invites people to "Go forth and sin some more!"

DeSantis has a Catholic background.

In May, the Dodgers announced that they had disinvited the group, which was slated to receive a community hero award, because some people find it offensive. 

But the Dodgers reversed course and re-invited them.

With a presidential candidate weighing in, we wanted to take a deeper look at the controversy.

We verified the ticket sales for the June 16 game on the MLB website. The announced paid attendance of 49,074 was slightly higher than this year’s average home Dodgers crowd of 48,024, which includes season ticket holders. 

Last year’s Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on June 3 generated 52,505 ticket sales. 

We sent the DeSantis presidential campaign the Twitter note and asked for its evidence that the stadium was "virtually empty" for the game and did not receive a response. (We also contacted the governor’s press office, which referred us to the campaign because it was a tweet from his campaign account.)

We contacted spokespersons for the Dodgers and did not receive a response by our deadline. MLB media relations referred us to the Dodgers.

So we turned to news coverage and photographs from the game to glean information about the crowd size. 

People march outside Dodger Stadium after a prayer service June 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP)

The award ceremony was held much earlier than the usual pregame events out of concerns for safety, wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke.

"Dodger Stadium has rarely looked more empty. Dodger Stadium has rarely felt more full," Plaschke wrote. "An hour before the Dodgers hosted the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, in the strangest of sights, there were no players in the dugout, no players on the field, and barely a couple of hundred fans in the stands. Sister Unity and Sister Dominia didn't mind. They stood in front of the third-base line and embraced their Community Hero Award medals as if they were accepting an Oscar."

Plasche quoted Sister Unity, who said, "There are a couple of thousand people protesting, there are over a million people in my community in L.A. County. Whatever happens to me, I have to be there for them. This moment was given to us, it was a moral imperative for me to rise to that occasion on behalf of the people who believe in us."

Video of the game viewed by PolitiFact on MLB’s website showed a largely crowded stadium; the crowd can be seen in highlights shared by MLB on YouTube. In early innings, many seats were empty, but they filled as the game progressed.

Our ruling

DeSantis said in a tweet that protests of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at a Los Angeles Dodgers game led to a "virtually empty stadium for the game itself."

The photos he highlighted were taken an hour before the first pitch. The team honored the LGBTQ+ group much earlier than typical pregame events because of safety concerns.

Video of the game showed a crowded stadium. The team reported selling about 49,000 tickets, slightly higher than average for this season.

The stadium wasn’t "virtually empty" during the game as a result of protests. We rate DeSantis’ statement False.

RELATED: All of our fact-checks of DeSantis 

RELATED: Fact-checking 2024 presidential candidates, who’s running

 

Our Sources

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Tweet, June 17, 2023

Brandon Gill, Facebook post, June 17, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers, Tweet, May 22, 2023

Los Angeles Dodgers, Tweet, June 17, 2023

New York Post, Thousands of protesters descend upon Dodger Stadium, take over entire block as team honors ‘drag nun’ group, June 16, 2023

Forbes, Dodgers’ Pride Night Draws Usual Turnout—‘Mostly Empty’ Stadium Claims Prove False, June 17, 2023

The Advocate, Ron DeSantis tweets lie about L.A. Dodgers Pride Night, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, June 18, 2023

Pink News, Religious groups protest drag nuns Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at LA Dodgers Pride event, June 18, 2023 

Catholic News Agency, Dodgers disinvite anti-Catholic drag performers from Pride Night after backlash, May 17, 2023

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sistory, Accessed June 19, 2023

Baseball Reference, Dodgers box score, June 3, 2022 

Major League Baseball, Dodgers box score, June 16, 2023

Major League Baseball, Dodgers to host 10th annual LGBTQ+ night At Dodger Stadium on June 16, May 4, 2023

ESPN, MLB attendance report, accessed June 19, 2023

MLB.com, accessed June 19, 2023

Los Angeles Times, Plaschke: Dodgers’ Pride Night feels like a rainbow of love, June 17, 2023

Business Insider, DeSantis claimed Dodgers stadium was 'virtually empty' after Pride backlash, but the game actually had higher attendance than normal, June 18, 2023

Savanah Hernandez, a reporter for the conservative Turning Point USA, Tweet, June 17, 2023

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, Press release, May 15, 2023

Robby Starbuck, Tweet, June 16, 2023

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Did Dodgers play to empty stadium after honoring LGBTQ+ activists who parody nuns? Evidence says no

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