San Diego Gay Men's Chorus calls on MLB, city authorities to investigate anthem incident

The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus has been invited back to Petco Park to sing the national anthem after Saturday's controversy.

Bob Lehman, the executive director of the chorus, had called for an investigation by Major League Baseball and the San Diego Padres after a woman's voice singing the "Star Spangled Banner" was played over the public address system while members of the chorus were on the field to sing the national anthem Saturday at Petco Park.

Lehman called on the San Diego City Attorney's Office and San Diego Human Relations Commission to look into the incident.

"What should have been a night of joy and celebration at Petco Park last night instead turned into a nightmare, raising serious questions about homophobia within the San Diego Padres organization and its relationship with the LGBT community," Lehman said in the lengthy statement Sunday.

Lehman said that no attempts were made to stop the recording and allow the 100 volunteers from the chorus to sing the anthem. When the recording ended, the chorus members were escorted off the field to heckling from some "fans shouting homophobic taunts, including 'You sing like a girl,'" he said.

At first, the Padres issued a statement Sunday night announcing the results of an internal investigation about the incident.

"The team had investigated the issue and have found no malicious intent of the parts involved. Based on the unintentional mistake and the failure to immediately correct the situation, we have terminated the relation with the contractor who was responsible for the error and taken disciplinary action against the employee in charge of the game production," the Padres said in the statement.

The Padres reiterated their support "to inclusion" and apologized to the "members of the chorus and their families." It was the team's second apology after a first statement acknowledging the incident was released Saturday night.

In response to tweets Sunday night asking that the team invite the chorus back for a second chance, the team tweeted that an "invitation has been extended."

Billy Bean, Major League Baseball's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, said in a statement that "it was very unfortunate that there was a technical error during the National Anthem at Petco Park."

"However, I want to convey that my former team, the San Diego Padres, has supported our inclusion message at MLB without hesitation, even before my return to baseball in 2014," he said. "They have led by example by inviting me, numerous times, to speak with their players and employees. I have also worked very closely with their owner, Ron Fowler, and team CEO Mike Dee, and I can assure you that they have made every effort to include the LGBT community and champion equality in MLB for each and every one of us. I'm so proud of the Padres organization for hosting an LGBT Pride event during the season, and I would hope that our community recognizes that error and intent are not related."

Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after his final season as an MLB player. He was hired by MLB as a consultant in 2014 and promoted to his current position earlier this year.

Lehman said Dee reached out to the group to apologize and "offer to meet with LGBT leaders to discuss the incident."

Lehman said his group was "very disappointed" with the Padres' public statement and alleged that in the days before the game, representatives of the team had tried to discourage chorus members from singing by demanding they purchase tickets to the game, only to relent Friday after receiving complaints.

"Three days before the game, San Diego Padres representatives aggressively sought to prevent singers from performing the National Anthem, unless they purchased a ticket to the game -- even if they did not plan to stay for the game -- which was not part of any previous discussion or written or verbal agreement and would have cost the small, community-based nonprofit thousands of dollars. The demand eventually was rescinded Friday, following repeated complaints made by SDGMC and San Diego Pride to San Diego Padres management.

"With this as background, we call on the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball to immediately launch a full and transparent investigation into the incident to determine if someone or some people intentionally engaged in anti-gay discrimination or a hate crime by playing a female's voice to represent a group of gay men with the purpose of denigrating and/or ridiculing gay men," Lehman said.

Saturday's game against the Dodgers was designated "Pride Night" by the Padres and was hosted in conjunction with San Diego Pride's Out at the Park event, which is held annually.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.