On Wednesday during the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays mascot was handed a controversial sign and held it up and took photos with it. The sign made light of Steve Irwin’s death, when a Manta Ray stinger pierced his heart in 2006. The Tampa Tribune provided some background on the incident:
The sign was made by Lloyd Johnson, 29, an Army veteran from Pinellas Park who served in Iraq and is now attending St. Petersburg College. He brought it to Wednesday night’s game and during the seventh inning handed it Raymond, who held it up for photographs.
In an email, he said he’s a “big Rays fan” and Irwin fan, but “I can also take a joke.”
Johnson said Raymond “obviously thought it was funny because, at first, he stood up on the chairs and held it up for literally 3 seconds, either realizing what he was doing or when he saw the reaction from some of the fans, and got down and tried to hand it back.
“Raymond did read the sign and even used his finger to point to the Steve Irwin line before he stood up for a second. It was definitely a slip-up on his part because from most of the comments I’ve read, people think the Rays did this when in fact it was just a smart (aleck) that handed it to him.”
It’s good to know that mascot himself didn’t bring the sign to the game or make it, but it was still a serious lapse in judgement and the Rays organization was none to pleased about it.
“Rays mascot Raymond was handed an inappropriate sign brought to the game by a fan,” team spokesman Rick Vaughn said in a statement. “Fans are welcome to bring signs into Tropicana Field provided they are not offensive.
“The Tampa Bay Rays regret that this particular sign was displayed in the ballpark, and we apologize for the lapse in judgment.”
It will be interesting to see if there is any back lash from this incident, and I’m guessing the Rays mascot will be on thin ice.