The National Hockey League’s commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested that the league is reconsidering holding ‘Pride Nights’ after many players have openly opposed the events.
Every NHL team currently holds a Pride Night, many consisting of the teams wearing pride-themed jerseys and taping their sticks with rainbow tape.
However, several players have begun refusing to participate in Pride Night events and refusing to wear pride-themed jerseys, citing religious beliefs.
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In an interview with CTV News, Bettman spoke about the recent controversy surrounding Pride nights.
“This is the first time we’ve experienced that, and I think it’s something that we’re going to have to evaluate in the offseason,” Bettman said.
“This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” he added. “But I think that’s become more of a distraction now, because the substance of what our teams and we have been doing and stand for is really being pushed to the side for what is a handful of players basically have made personal decisions, and you have to respect that as well.”
Players who have recently refused to participate in Pride nights include Florida Panthers players Eric and Marc Stall, who refused to wear the pride-themed jerseys last Thursday due to their Christian beliefs.
In a statement about their decision, the players said, “We carry no judgment on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey. Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a Pride jersey, it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
Other players who have cited their religious beliefs as reasons for not wearing the Pride-themed jerseys are San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.
Earlier this month, when Reimer decided not to wear the LGBTQ jersey during Pride Night warmups, he issued a statement explaining his reasoning.
“For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian – not just in title, but in how I choose to live my life daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and follow him. I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness.
In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the bible, the highest authority in my life.
I strongly believe that every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
A statement from Goaltender, James Reimer: pic.twitter.com/GwhWxhbmb4
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) March 18, 2023
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin said that he would not wear a Pride jersey during his team’s Pride Night warmups due to fears that he would face retribution in his home country of Russia due to its anti-gay Kremlin law.
Citing this same law, the Chicago Blackhawks chose to not have their players wear Pride jerseys on Pride Night out of respect for their Russian players.