“There’s an undercurrent of hatred for disco,” said the much-despised shock jock Steve Dahl, infamous for starting Chicago’s Disco Demolition in Comiskey Park.
In a publicity stunt concocted the summer of 1979 during a Chicago White Sox game against the Detroit Tigers, Steve Dahl encouraged everyone to bring their Disco records in order to destroy them. Dahl blew up the records to a cacophony of “Disco Sucks!” inciting chaos and mayhem amongst the crowd. Some of the 50,000 fans in the packed Comiskey Park stormed the field, creating a near riot. They were eventually dispersed by Chicago riot police and the second game was forfeited to Detroit.
The event was perfectly summed up by Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh, who called the mayhem “Your most paranoid fantasy about where the ethnic cleansing of the rock radio could ultimately lead… White males, eighteen to thirty-four are the most likely to see Disco as the product of homosexuals, blacks and Latins, and therefore they’re the most likely to respond to appeals to wipe out such threats to their security.”
“I firmly believe that sports and music should bring people together instead of trying to demolish a part of our culture and the people supporting it.”
Forty years later, the Chicago White Sox will memorialize this unfortunate incident in Chicago’s musical (and sports) history. This Thursday June 13th, Steve Dahl has been invited to throw out the first pitch when the White Sox play the New York Yankees.
And to coincide with their “Free T-Shirt Thursday”, 10,000 Disco-Demolition themed shirts will be handed out to the first people to show up. The legend at the bottom reads “The Night That Records Were Broken.”
For a city that birthed House music, we should not be “celebrating” such a tasteless and divisive event in our history.
Here is an open letter written by a good friend and producer from Chicago, Giovanni Taverna. Below his letter is the White Sox’s PR-friendly, rote response. We encourage everyone who feels strongly about this to to write the White Sox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear White Sox Organization,
I’ve read that on June 13th you will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Disco Demolition night, a shameful episode in your glorious history. As a fan, I’m disappointed that you have chosen to celebrate something to forget. As an old fan of Disco music, as well as a father of two black girls, I’m outraged by the fact your team will be once again associated to the racist and homophobic attitude of that night in 1979 when an entire culture so important for Chicago was violently attacked.
During this summer, your team will celebrate various positive things in our society. The only thing you have decided to “demolish” is Disco music, a form of art whose positive and progressive influence on American society is still so crucial nowadays (from music to dance, from visual art to movies, from civil rights to liberation).
“All of this will happen a few steps from the Progressive Baptist Church where in 2014 the life of Frankie Knuckles was celebrated: one of the most prominent figures of Disco / House Music whose contribution to our culture was even remembered with a letter from President Obama.”
If you are following the debate on social media, you will notice your celebration night of June 13th is already working as a whistle blower for the so called “alt-right” to reminisce the “good old days” when something like that could be organized without being called racist and homophobic by “liberals”. Despite some backward steps we are seeing in our society, I won’t stay silent about this celebration which once again will disrespect the culture of that part of society wrongly considered minority and consequently not mattering or even “demolishable”.
The fact you will even distribute 10,000 free t-shirts celebrating Disco Demolition risks to spread a dangerous message of hate and discrimination outside of the ballpark. All of this will happen a few steps from the Progressive Baptist Church where in 2014 the life of Frankie Knuckles was celebrated: one of the most prominent figures of Disco / House Music whose contribution to our culture was even remembered with a letter from President Obama.
I firmly believe that sports and music should bring people together instead of trying to demolish a part of our culture and the people supporting it; for this reason I’m asking you to cancel the Disco Demolition celebration you have scheduled on June 13th.
The White Sox’s response:
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. We will review your comments with our front office leadership in consideration with the execution of the promotion. The White Sox organization strives to promote a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, creating important initiatives to advocate for diversity and inclusion, such as our BasebALL: One Game for All efforts, and through theme nights that celebrate all communities. We hope to promote a positive ballpark experience for all that is consistent with the spirit of the game. We appreciate your feedback.”