It was Pride Night at Petco Park, and the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus walked out to center field before the Padres game and readied themselves to sing the national anthem.
But as the 100-member group stood facing the crowd Saturday, suddenly someone else was singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" — a woman's recorded voice over the loudspeakers.
OK, it happens. You hit a wrong button, flip the wrong switch — so you cut the sound and get things right.
Except that the recorded voice kept going. In fact, the invisible woman sang the entire national anthem as the Gay Men's Chorus was left standing there.
“We were just excited to be at a game and let the audience see us and hear us and let [them] know that we’re sports fans too, and we’re normal guys,” RC Haus, artistic director for the chorus, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And then a woman sings over us, and it was mortifying.”
Choral member Dan England added, “I just felt this dread come over me because I was so embarrassed. Some of us started to sing along. After that, we just stood there. We thought they would ask us to sing, but they just asked us to leave the field.”
But while some fans said encouraging words on their way out, the chorus' executive director, Bob Lehman, told the Union-Tribune others shouted insults, among them, "You sing like a girl."
John Brown, executive director of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, wondered to the paper if it was a prank.
"This is a time when the Padres are really looking to build community support," Brown told the Union-Tribune. "They’ve got to understand that the LGBT community is large in San Diego, it is supported by our community’s leaders, and the majority of people who live here. This kind of thing isn’t acceptable at all."
Lehman told CNN that the Padres were "difficult to work with" and asked the chorus to pay for tickets to the game. While Lehman said the team later apologized for the ticket purchase request, he told CNN the chorus doesn't trust the Padres and asked for an investigation.
"Besides the obvious embarrassment there is a feeling in the community that this was done on purpose," Lehman told CNN. "My first instinct was that this was done on purpose. I really don't want to believe that. I just can't."
The national anthem isn't always performed live at Padres games, and the Union-Tribune said in this case a recorded version was supposed to be played while the gay men's chorus was on the field — and the Padres said in its apology late Sunday that a technical error led to the wrong recording going over the loudspeakers.
Statement from the #Padres regarding last night's National Anthem: https://t.co/xBlT6WdPa1— San Diego Padres (@San Diego Padres) 1463973124.0
While the team said it found “no evidence of malicious intent on the part of any individuals involved,” it severed ties with “the third-party contractor who was responsible for the error.”
Billy Bean — a former Padre player who came out as gay and is now the league's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion — defended his former team:
Yesterday in SD. @Padres @SDGayMensChorus https://t.co/n5jmCSLPEc— Billy Bean (@Billy Bean) 1463958932.0
Still the chorus wants the city of San Diego and Major League Baseball to investigate, the Union-Tribune said, and requested a meeting with team officials.
Matt Awbrey, the San Diego mayor's deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail to the paper that the city attorney's office had been asked to review the case. But a spokesman for city attorney didn't have information on the complaint Sunday.
"I don’t want to live in a city where the LGBT community thinks the Padres hate them," Lehman told the Union-Tribune. "Even if it’s perception, it’s got to be fixed."
This story has been updated.