The National Hockey League (NHL) has announced that teams no longer will wear special warmup sweaters to celebrate gay pride or other causes. “It’s become a distraction,” Commissioner Gary Bettman stated.
The decision comes, according to news reports, after a national backlash about “pride” terminology and acknowledgment forcing its way into every aspect of American society.
NHL teams still are permitted to hold specialty nights such as Pride Night, Black History Night and Military Appreciation Night and also can create specialty jerseys for the benefit of various charities.
“Our clubs, in some form or another, host nights in honor of various groups or causes,” he said. “We rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction. Players who choose to model them can do that. It’s really just the question of what’s on the ice.”
In January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, recently traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, refused to wear a pride night-themed warmup sweater, citing his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs. This stance was later echoed by San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer and brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers.
Reimer did not play in the March 18 game against the New York Islanders after the team released a statement on his behalf. He said that while he has “no hate in my heart for anyone,” he would not “endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life. 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.”
Russian players Ilya Lyubushkin, Denis Gurianov and Andrei Kuzmenko also declined to participate in their respective teams’ pride night warmups, with Lyubushkin citing a Kremlin law. In March, the Chicago Blackhawks did not don their pride-themed warmup sweaters, reportedly because security concerns over the Russian law restricting the promotion of LGBT rights. The Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers also retracted their decisions to wear special sweaters for their respective pride nights.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice