One of America’s major sporting organisations has opted out of participating in future Pride Night events. The National Hockey League (NHL) will no longer make it mandatory for teams to wear special warm-up sweaters for any cause.
Some players refused to wear Pride Night clothing and logos on religious grounds last season. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said it had become a “distraction” for the sport.
The Christian Post reports NHL teams are still permitted to hold specialty nights like Pride Night, Black History Night, and Military Appreciation Night and can also create specialty jerseys for the benefit of various charities.
“In the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams, which players. This way, we’re keeping the focus on the game, and on these specialty nights we’re going to be focused on the cause,” Mr. Bettman explained. The board of governors agreed with his viewpoint, marking a significant shift in NHL policy.
In January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, recently traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, refused to wear a Pride Night warmup sweater, citing his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs.
Other teams had safety concerns for their Russian players after the Kremlin enacted legislation criminalsing the promotion of what the law described as “non-traditional relations” which could impact on the players when they return to Russia. They have had to walk a careful line since the invasion of Ukraine with some cautiously speaking out against the war despite family members still living in Russia.
Their Pride Night stance was later echoed by other Christian players like San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer and brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers.
Reimer 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,” the Sharks star said, adding that he believes “the [LGBT] community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”