NHL Commissioner to “Evaluate” LBTQ+ Pride Policies After More Players Refuse to Wear Jerseys
Aside from the black and blue bruising hockey players universally wear as badges of pride in their roughneck sport, a growing number of players as well entire teams in the National Hockey League are opting out of wearing the rainbow-colored jerseys and other regalia associated with the LBTQ+ Pride community at various promotional events sanctioned by the league.
That mounting resistance to the multi-hued fashion statements has prompted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to announce proclamations of LBTQ+ Pride is something his league “will have to evaluate in the offseason.”
Players and entire teams have explained they’ve foregone wearing Pride warmup jerseys for religious reasons — but also concern and fear of reprisals in their home countries, where LGBQ+ culture is not only shunned but criminalized.
When the issue took center ice within the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers organizations, Bettman defended how the teams handled the situations — with tolerance and acceptance for their players who didn’t want to participate in the Pride Night festivities.
“This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” Bettman said, via CTV Ottawa. “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.”
Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and NHL veterans Eric and Marc Staal, who play for the Florida Panthers, each cited religious reasons as why they were opposed to wearing a Pride jersey. As well, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubishkin said he was refusing over fear of reprisal in Russia and San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer defended his decision to avoid wearing a Pride-themed jersey and miss warmups completely before a game earlier this month.
As others have cited religious for their stances against wearing the Pride colors, Reimer similarly explained his religious beliefs precluded him from demonstrating support for the LGBTQ+ community in San Jose, according to reporting by Fox News Digital.
When interviewed by The Athletic and San Jose Hockey Now, Reimer was asked point-blank his thoughts on transgender people: “I think I would just refer back to my statement on that one. My beliefs in Christ, what I think the Bible says on that stuff. But people, regardless of their orientation or their activity or whatnot, they have value and worth, I would do my best to love them, the best way I know how
“I don’t think there’s a limit per se. And it might be, I don’t know if it’s hard for people to understand or whatnot,” he was further quoted saying by Fox News. “But what I said, especially the last statement, everyone has value and worth. I’ll tell you, I wish people knew that wasn’t just a line I said. I have a heart for people. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, what you do, and whatnot. I don’t want to keep [referring to my statement] over and over again, right? But obviously, I have my beliefs and things that I can’t personally endorse. But man, you love the person, you try and do whatever you can to get to know them or whatnot. That’s what I have to say, I guess.”
Reimer admitted he hasn’t thought much about criticism he has received.
“It’s not that I don’t care, but it’s not a decision where on that Friday night I was like, ‘Oh, this is what I’m going to do.’ It’s something that I thought about for a long time, probably almost a year. I tried to go to incredible lengths to try and say something as sensitively and decently as possible and try to understand all points. I tried to take all of that into account,” he said.