Thursday, May 16, 2024
NHL's Pride events intersect LGBTQ politics.

NHL’s Pride events intersect LGBTQ politics.

NHL Pride Nights Future in Question as Players Opt-Out

Sports leagues and teams, including the NHL, often hold Pride nights to raise visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. These events can include special jerseys, performances, information tables, and drag shows.

However, recently six NHL players refused to wear rainbow-colored jerseys on their teams’ Pride nights for the first time, leading the league’s commissioner to discuss the future of these events. This has worried some fans and supporters of LGBTQ+ rights who fear that the political climate is now threatening events that are meant to be fun and affirming.

Republican lawmakers across the U.S. have pursued hundreds of proposals this year to push back on LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender rights. At the same time, international sports-governing bodies are implementing policies that ban all trans athletes from competing in track and field and effectively ban trans women from swimming events.

Additionally, a Russian law prohibits “propaganda” about LGBTQ+ people, including in advertising, media, and the arts. This law has led at least one Russian NHL player to decline participation in Pride night.

Many Pride nights in the NHL are about selling tickets, according to Hudson Taylor, Executive Director, and Founder of Athlete Ally, an organization that works for LGBTQ+ inclusivity. But because the NHL has been such a leader among men’s sports in how to do Pride nights well, it’s “conspicuous” to see players and teams “roll back the ways in which they have historically shown support and given visibility to the LGBTQ+ community.”

Evan Brody, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, says the players opting out and the team decisions all exist within the same kind of anti-LGBTQ+ discourse. In the NHL, many Pride nights are about selling tickets, according to Hudson Taylor, Executive Director, and Founder of Athlete Ally, an organization that works for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

In response to players opting out, the NHL’s Commissioner, Gary Bettman, said the league would “evaluate” how it handles Pride nights in the future. However, he also noted that the NHL, teams, and players “overwhelmingly” support Pride nights.

Ivan Provorov from Russia and Canadians James Reimer, Eric Staal, and Marc Staal cited religious beliefs for refusing to take part in warmups for rainbow-colored jerseys. Ilya Lyubushkin declined participation because of the law in Russia, and another Russian player, Andrei Kuzmenko, decided not to wear the special uniform after discussions with his family.

Despite the refusal of some players and teams, the vast majority of NHL players are participating in pregame Pride skates, with Edmonton’s Zach Hyman stating that it’s “extremely important to be open and welcoming to that greater community just because they’re a minority and they’ve faced a lot of persecution over the years.”

The NHL hasn’t given out a penalty or fine for anti-LGBTQ+ language since 2017. However, the American Hockey League suspended a player in April 2023 for eight games for using homophobic language.

The future of NHL Pride nights remains uncertain, but fans and supporters of LGBTQ+ rights are hopeful that the league and its players will continue to support and embrace these important events.

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About Nick Dunn

Meet Nick Dunn, an exceptional author on our blog with a focus on news and politics. With an expertise in covering current affairs, international news, opinion and analysis, as well as politics and government, Nick delivers insightful and thought-provoking posts that are both informative and engaging. With his in-depth knowledge and sharp analysis, he keeps you informed and up-to-date on the latest news and developments around the world!

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