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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Sticky Situation: NHL bans Pride gear

Sticky Situation: NHL bans Pride gear

When it comes to major corporations, hypocrisy is often bountiful. The National Hockey League (NHL) proves to be no exception, as the league that brands itself with the slogan “Hockey is for Everyone” banned both the use of Pride Tape and the players from wearing “any specialty sweaters during a game, in warmups or at an official practice,” according to ESPN.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expressed concerns over the pride warm-up sweaters becoming a “distraction,” after allowing the use of the tape and pride sweaters for roughly seven years.

In defense of the NHL’s decision, Bettman said the organization’s action to move away from affirmative involvement in any cause “doesn’t make (the NHL) a bigot.”

“You know what our goals, our values and our intentions are across the league, whether it’s at the league level or at the club level,” Bettman said. “But we also have to respect some individual choice, and some people are more comfortable embracing themselves in causes than others.”

No, Gary, we do not know what your goals, values and intentions are. Flip-flopping between policies and then settling on this decision does not bring us any clarity on the league’s purpose regarding any support for LGBTQ communities or lack thereof. Instead, Bettman has created a greater spectacle of himself and of the issue.

The NHL’s decision to ban specialized warmup jerseys that support various causes came after several players refused to wear a pride-themed jersey, the first of which was Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov back in January. 

According to ESPN, Provorov did not “take the pregame skate Tuesday night because he refused to wear the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night warmup jersey, citing his religious beliefs.” 

Throughout the 2022-2023 season, a handful of other players followed Provorov’s lead. 

San Jose Sharks Goalie James Reimer issued a statement in which he said he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey. However, he also refused to participate in wearing the themed gear.

“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 life,” Reimer said.

We understand the intention behind respecting individual choice regarding religious decisions, but those individual players do not have to participate in the themed nights. The league is taking away the players’ choice to show support for a cause including support of the LGBTQ community.

Every team in the NHL hosts a variety of “theme nights,” and although the LGBTQ-themed jerseys are no longer permitted to be worn by any player, the “theme nights they represent, including Pride, Military and Heritage, will continue” according to The Athletic.

We are disappointed in the NHL’s decision regarding themed jersey use, and equally let down by the NHL in what feels like a pointed attack on the LGBTQ community.

According to section 10.1 of the official NHL rulebook, accessible on the NHL’s website, “Adhesive tape of any color may be wrapped around the stick at any place for the purpose of reinforcement or to improve control of the puck.”

We feel the decision to ban pride-themed hockey tape directly conflicts with these written rules.

The decision to ban Pride Tape and themed sweaters is exclusionary. Players should have their own choice in the matter. Instead of supporting the players’ choice, the NHL has effectively oppressed all players by taking away the option of using Pride Tape and/or themed sweaters on-ice altogether. After all, they already tape their own sticks and are often extremely particular about it.

The stance the league has taken creates confusion amongst many different organizations. Fans and teams alike are now concerned about their ability to support the social causes they are passionate about in the context of a hockey game. 

The NHL league office needs to reverse this policy change and allow players the freedom to choose how they express themselves on the ice.

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