The NHL, along with multiple teams and players, received mixed responses for their decision to refrain from wearing LGBTQ-themed jerseys during the warm-up sessions on their respective Pride Nights.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman clarified that the decision to eliminate themed jerseys from being worn on the ice was taken to keep distractions at bay.
"I suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warm-ups because it's become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we'd rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction," Bettman told SportsNet at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Thursday.
The declaration was made during Pride Month, a time when the league was facing criticism for failing to create an inclusive atmosphere for the LGBTQ community at its games. Bettman acknowledged these criticisms as valid concerns.
This is bigger news than it might appear and not just because I'm Canadian and it's hockey: https://t.co/ncgM8yDCPT
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) June 23, 2023
"But in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various courses 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," he said.
Bettman assured that Pride Nights, along with other cultural heritage celebrations, will continue to be held.
"All of those nights will continue. … The only difference will be is we're not going to change jerseys for warm-ups because that's just become more of a distraction from, really, the essence of what the purpose of these nights are," he said.
Philadelphia Flyers' defenseman Ivan Provorov highlighted the issue when he declined to wear the team's Pride-themed jersey during warm-ups, citing his Russian Orthodox faith as the reason. His jersey quickly turned into one of the league's top sellers following his public position.
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