Gutsy Players Force NHL to ‘Reevaluate’ Pride Jerseys
If someone had asked what the biggest storyline of hockey would be heading into 2023, an uprising over the NHL’s Pride jerseys wouldn’t have been it. But what started as a one-man stand with the Flyers’ Ivan Provorov has turned into a full-blown rebellion against one of the most powerful agendas in the world. Two months into the no-pride tide that’s rolled through New York (twice), Minnesota, California, Illinois, and Florida, the league may have arrived at a point no one thought possible: surrender.
In a complete one-eighty from January, the same NHL commissioner who tried to paint Provorov as an outlier is signaling that the league may be ready to pull the plug on rainbow gear altogether. With the news that Buffalo Sabres’ defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin would be the latest to sit-out Pride night, the NHL’s hand has been forced. They can either keep cleaning up these messes in the press (an almost weekly chore now) or they can make the choice fans have been rooting for since the advent of the league’s LGBT groveling: stop using players as unwilling spokesmen for their extreme agenda.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose messaging started to shift when individual players started speaking out, signaled to CTV Ottawa this week that the league may have no choice but to reconsider. The tradition of forcing players to advertise the sport’s preferred political message — and a divisive one at that — is something the NHL “will have to evaluate in the offseason,” he explained.
“This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” Bettman admitted. And the pool of players is only growing. After James Reimer broke the ice as the first North American to refuse the uniform, spending 17 minutes with the press graciously outlining his faith, brothers Marc and Eric Staal followed.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the NHL’s self-inflicted crisis is almost over. But the question of next season weighs heavy — not just for hockey but for every sport co-opted by the LGBT movement.
Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm has a solution. “The league should stop holding LGBTQ nights,” he told The Washington Stand. “Not only should they stop, but they should apologize for ever having held them in the first place. It’s wildly inappropriate to ask people to support causes they don’t actually support as a condition of employment. It’s not that different than the North Korean dictators who have required their people to enthusiastically cheer their oppressors under threat of imprisonment. If people want to celebrate something, they can. But no culture, government, or business that pretends to be tolerant should compel it.”
As Bettman himself lamented, all this controversy has done is draw people’s attention away from the one thing he’s trying to promote: the game. “… I think [it’s] become more of a distraction now, because the substance of what our teams and what we have been doing and stand for is really being pushed to the side for what is a handful of players [who] basically have made personal decisions, and you have to respect that as well.”
The fact that a commissioner of any professional sport is acknowledging the need for viewpoint tolerance is a major victory for everyone right now — players and fans. If that’s all that comes of the courageous stands taken by Provorov, Reimer, and the Staals, it will be enough. But here’s hoping hockey leads the way into a new era for athletes — one that benches politics, once and for all.
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.