This Thursday (June 13), the Chicago White Sox are giving away 10,000 t-shirts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, Chicago journalist Robert Feder notes. Written on the t-shirt is: “The Night That Records Were Broken.” The shirt is available as part of the team’s Free T-Shirt Thursdays promotion. According to Feder, Steve Dahl, the radio jockey who stirred up anti-disco sentiment by destroying records, will throw out the game’s honorary first pitch.
On July 12, 1979, station reps for Chicago’s WLUP and the White Sox teamed up to host Disco Demolition Night, a promotional event that offered 98-cent admission to a doubleheader for anybody who brought a disco record. Dahl was appointed to blow up all the records in centerfield at Comiskey Park between games. Once he did, fans rioted and charged the field.
Musicians from the era have condemned the event. “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning,” Nile Rodgers has said. “This is America, the home of jazz and rock and people were now afraid even to say the word ‘disco.’ I remember thinking—we’re not even a disco group.” NPR has written that Disco Demolition Night has come “to be seen as a not-so-subtle attack against disco’s early adopters: blacks, Latinos and gay people.”
When contacted by Pitchfork, a representative for the Chicago White Sox sent the following statement:
This year’s Disco Demolition T-Shirt giveaway was intended to recognize the anniversary of a historic off-the-field moment that has been connected to the organization over the past 40 years. It is a recognizable part of Chicago baseball history. We recently were made aware of comments criticizing the T-Shirt giveaway and are in the process of reviewing feedback. We have been communicating with our community partners who have raised concerns to make it clear that the intent of this giveaway was only meant to mark the historical nature of the night 40 years later. We have reinforced that the White Sox organization is dedicated to advocating for a safe, welcoming ballpark experience for all people and communities, and will continue to engage in important, informative discussions with our fans and partners to build toward positive change through sports. We remain proud of our franchise’s longstanding record on advocating for inclusion and diversity.
Watch Pitchfork’s “Yearbook: A Snapshot of Chicago's Music Scene in 1979”:
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