You may remember a month ago when a professional hockey player refused to wear a Pride jersey during the warmup to a game on Pride Night. I hoped that would trigger productive talks and action, but it seems things are headed in the other direction.
It all started when Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers refused to take part in the 20-minute warmup in a home game because the team was wearing Pride-themed jerseys and using hockey sticks with rainbow tape. The event was planned in support of the community as part of the National Hockey League’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative that began in 2017 (again: just for the warmup period, not the actual game). The NHL started supporting the LGBTQ+ community with its “You Can Play” initiative in March of 2012, with many teams periodically hosting “Pride Night” games in addition to other off-ice endeavors. Ivan, the only Flyer not to participate, said this afterward: “I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my (Russian Orthodox) religion.”
Then weeks later, the New York Rangers mysteriously stopped plans to wear their own Pride warmup jerseys, releasing a generic statement: “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”
NYC Pride calls NY Rangers' decision not to wear Pride Night jerseys "major disappointment to LGBTQ+ community."
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 29, 2023
Mollie Walker, who covers the team for the New York Post, noted: “Two players separately told Post colleague Larry Brooks and me that there were no team discussions about sporting the pride-themed jerseys and tape. They did not know why they didn’t wear them. Brooks also reached out to the NHL’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer, Bill Daly, to see if teams had been advised not to proceed with their original Pride Night plans in the aftermath of Provorov’s refusal. Daly said no and that each club is entitled to proceed as it sees fit.”
As noted by The Athletic: “The Rangers’ plans also differed from the team’s Pride Night ceremonies in 2021 and 2022, when the team advertised the use of rainbow-colored tape on sticks and Pride-themed jerseys. In previous years, the Rangers auctioned signed jerseys worn in warmups and sticks used for the Pride Night celebrations, with proceeds benefitting Covenant House and Garden of Dreams to help young people in need.”
So despite the event being advertised, fans and players were never notified of the change. Then weeks later, the New York Islanders (who already had a rule that no specialty warmup jerseys can be worn), announced that they wouldn’t be wearing the jerseys or even using the rainbow tape during warmups.
At the NHL All-Star game, commissioner Gary Bettman said: “We also have to respect some individual choice. And some people are more comfortable embracing themselves and causes than others. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences.”
The Chicago Blackhawks were next to disappoint, ditching plans to wear Pride jerseys and instead wearing jerseys in support of Black History Month, which had been scheduled for a later game….
Now do your pride jerseys. Oh wait….
— Ian Anderson (@iananderson85) February 11, 2023
…when they have already work and auctioned off Pride jerseys in past years:
The Pride warmup jersey auction is now open!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 27, 2021
If both New York teams and Chicago aren’t on board, what hope is there?! (The Washington Capitols and Carolina Panthers didn’t wear jerseys, but did use rainbow tape for the warmups on their Pride Night…some teams still have their Pride games coming up.) Other teams, thank you very much Vegas Golden Nights, had no problem with the jerseys and tape:
a rundown of all the AMAZING things we have planned for tonight ☺️https://t.co/HMmYMUSeSM
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 5, 2023
So apparently hockey isn’t for everyone. Just as a reminder, the NHL forces players to wear special green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys. You remember St. Patrick’s Day, right? Instead of just wearing green and drinking beer, it’s also a religious celebration. But I guess that’s okay.
And meanwhile, on February 19th the Maine Mariners of the East Coast Hockey League are celebrating Women in Sports Night with…a bra toss?! “It’s the annual underwear & sports bra toss. Bring new, unopened packages of underwear or sports bras to throw onto the ice after the Mariners first goal! Proceeds will be donated to Preble Street and the Sports Bra Project.”
A big hats off to former NHL general manager Brian Burke (current president of hockey operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins), who spoke up about his disappointment—and how happy his own son was after coming out as gay:
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) February 15, 2023
Bravo, Brian! Wearing a jersey to say you support a welcoming environment isn’t the same as getting married to a man or watching gay porn. What a huge step back the league has taken this year. Does this trend bother you? Or do you think they shouldn’t wear Pride jerseys at all?