Chicago was scheduled on Sunday to become the latest NHL team to wear pregame Pride jerseys. Instead, they’ve become the latest team to say that they won’t be wearing them after all. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last night that the team’s management has decided to scrap the jerseys — not because because of anyone raising a religious objection, but due to security concerns regarding the team’s Russian players.
Here’s the key passage in the Sun-Times article:
[C]onversations with security officials about the uncertain implications of a new Russian law banning “gay propaganda” prompted the [team] to make an organizational decision to scrap the Pride jersey plans this year, per sources.
The homophobic law, enacted in December, makes it illegal for Russians to promote or “praise” LGBTQ relationships or suggest they are “normal,” CNN reported.
The [team] currently [has] at least three players on their NHL roster — Russian defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, Swiss forward Philipp Kurashev and Kazakh goaltender Anton Khudobin — who are of Russian heritage or have family in Russia.
The decision was made by the front office rather than by the players, per sources.
The team has worn the rainbow-striped pregame jerseys in past seasons (as seen at the top of this page) and will maintain the other elements of its Pride Night promotion on Sunday. It’s not clear, at least to me, if that will include rainbow stick tape for pregame activities.
This is the latest in the series of episodes involving NHL Pride jerseys over the past two months or so:
- On Jan. 18, Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who is Russian, refused to wear the team’s pregame Pride jersey, citing religious objections.
- On Jan. 27, the Rangers unexpectedly did not wear their pregame Pride jerseys, despite running a promotional campaign that said the jerseys would be worn. The team, which has several Russian players on the roster, said the move was based on “everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs” but did not elaborate further.
- On March 7, the Wild made a last-minute decision not to wear their pregame Pride jerseys. The move was initially described as an “organizational decision,” but The Athletic later reported that it was due to concerns over the team’s Russian players.
- On March 18, Sharks goalie James Reimer skipped the team’s pregame skate because he didn’t want to wear the Pride jerseys, citing religious objections. Reimer is not Russian, but two of his teammates are — left wing Alexander Barabanov and defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov — and they both wore the rainbow jerseys.
What a mess. The best and most comprehensive coverage of this issue, by far, can be found in this deeply reported Athletic article. Highly recommended.