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NHL Players, Teams Already Planning to Defy Pride Tape Ban

The NHL’s recently announced ban on rainbow-patterned Pride Tape — in games, in pregame activities, and even, bizarrely, in practices — appears to be blowing up in Gary Bettman’s face. reported yesterday that Flyers center Scott Laughton is planning to defy the ban when the team holds its Pride Night promotion on Jan. 10. Here’s the quote from Laughton, who’s a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ causes:

“You’ll probably see me with the Pride Tape on that night. I don’t know, I didn’t read really what it said, if it’s a ban or something, but I’ll probably have it on. We’ll see what they say, but it’s not gonna affect the way I go about it. If they want to say something, they can. […] I’ll use the tape – if I have to buy it myself, I will. Go about it that way.”

Laughton apparently isn’t alone. A report from The Athletic quotes Pride Tape co-founder Jeff McLean saying that the NHL ban has actually increased demand for his product:

Several NHL teams have contacted McLean directly to see how they can respond to the league’s decision to prohibit players from using Pride-themed tape this season. According to McLean, one NHL team even phoned his office on Tuesday to place an order for an entire case of Pride Tape.

“We are talking with teams this week about what we can do. We want to talk about what more we can do on Pride Night. And I’m really optimistic about that,” McLean said Tuesday. “And if we have this conversation a week from now, there will be more teams on board.”

Behind the scenes, Pride Tape employees say there has been a groundswell of support through back channels. The pushback to the NHL’s new directive — which states that NHL players won’t be allowed to put Pride-themed tape on their sticks on the ice this season — has also been coming directly from the players themselves. Pride Tape’s other co-founder, Dr. Kristopher Wells, believes there might even be enough traction to force the NHL to reverse its policy.

That article also quotes Wild defenseman Jon Merrill saying he’d “be open” to using the Pride Tape:

“If anyone does it, what is the league going to do?” Merrill said. “Take me off the ice, give me a penalty? Then you look bad as a league. I don’t know. It’s upsetting. Just disappointing.”

Meanwhile, former NHL exec Brian Burke says the Pride Tape ban is a “serious setback” for the league. Considering how this controversy is overshadowing the start of the regular season, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.


Comments (34)

    Hats off Scott Laughton, Brian Burke, Jon Merrill, Jeff McLean, and Dr. Kristopher Wells. I’m proud to see agents of change within a league that has done nothing but show me the back of their hand. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    Sports are like an overloaded pack mule, carrying every cause on their back now. I can’t decide if I want sports to go back to being a refuge from daily concerns or become even more politicized. They’re in a middle ground that doesn’t seem to accomplish much.

    “sports to go back to being a refuge from daily concerns”

    The genesis of the whole pride tape thing was an initiative called You Can Play, started by Brian Burke in honour of his son. Its about inclusiveness at every level of the sport. Its about telling kids coming up that hockey is for you no matter how you identify.

    So when you say “refuge from daily concerns” that ignores the fact that if you’re an LGBTQ+ kid coming up in hockey, your identity is a daily concern. Homophobia from coaches and in the locker room is a daily concern. This is about what’s happening in the locker room and on team rosters today.

    Asking “sport” to put aside inclusiveness so that you can enjoy the sport without having to think about those things is IMO completely missing the point. Or maybe in an indirect way its making the point about why inclusiveness initiatives like this are still necessary.

    Generally speaking, the whole idea of sports (or almost any form of entertainment) being a “break from the real world,” or something like that, is almost always an expression of privilege. If you’re a member of a marginalized class, there’s a good chance that your marginalization extends to, or overlaps with, sports (or other sectors of the entertainment industry).

    I don’t mean this to sound accusatory — I myself have sometimes wanted to just enjoy the game without thinking about larger issues. But that’s a luxury I enjoy as a straight, white, professional male, because those larger issues generally don’t affect me directly, so I can easily put them out of my mind. Other people can’t always ignore those larger issues, and those larger issues often intersect with the game.

    I’m not saying there’s a “right” or “wrong” position here, but I’m definitely trying to say that there’s more than one way of looking at it, and that it’s easy to have some blind spots.

    When some parts do one thing and other parts do something else it lacks the definition of being uniform or being a uniform. Maybe we can have a Non-Uni-Uni-Watch?

    For better or worse (I’d say there’s some of both), we are living in an era that places a higher value on personal expression than we’ve seen in the past. This is a reflection of that broader cultural trend.

    “Which is why our culture is where it is these days.”

    Which is wrong/bad why?

    Wow. Just wow. Society has become somehow better over the last 10 years? Not in what I see. But hey, to each their own.

    Greater personal expression has been occurring for the last 60 years. Each generation of reactionaries denounces the “alien” intrusions of the last few years, while sweeping under the rug their denunciation of ideas they or their parents considered abominations before that (before losing). Like the way every generation of White adults damns the music that their kids listen to as – seriously – Satanic, Communistic and terroristic… and then those kids grow up and do the same against the music their kids listen to while the old music is remarketed as safe nostalgia. That’s just as much personal expression as sports.

    Tattoos are a good form of self-expression. Remember the pitcher from 20-25 years ago who was told he had to wear long sleeves because his ink was considered distracting to batters? I think he played for Toronto.

    just proudly ordered some Pride Tape and a beanie from the Pride Tape website. Kudos to Pride Tape, and to those NHL players and teams who won’t be bullied into silence.

    This could haven easily been more of an it’s a uniform/distraction thing like MLB w shoes being or not being a certain color so on and so forth. That the first thing that came to my mind.
    You just simply mandate only solid or team colors or something.

    Here’s my take, and I have said this all along…….

    I’m not a fan of brussel sprouts. But, if someone is, then let them eat them. Now, if someone says “we are having national brussel sprout day and you have to eat brussel sprouts” I’m going to say “ya’ll go ahead, that’s not for me”. Does that mean that I don’t want ANYBODY to eat/enjoy brussel sprouts? Absolutely not. That being said, I think it should be left up the the players and not the team/league as to whether or not you can apply LGBTQ+ tape to your hockey stick. If you want to, go for it. If you choose not to, do not get ridiculed because you didn’t.

    I’m sure I’m going to generate some negative comments…… But, it isn’t what my comment was intended to do.

    If you work for a company and they have a policy that you can’t do political things on the clock should you be able to just because you want to? Company policy, no bringing in your kids school fundraisers to work, Should you be able to just because its a good cause? You work for the city, you can’t do campaign work on the clock. You want your boss who appointed you to keep the position, should you get to do campaign work on the clock? You are on the companies dime at work. You follow their rules, as long as they are legal/safe. If you don’t like the rules, as long as they are legal, you are free to get a different job.

    The company I work for has diversity groups and supports them on certain days, and the employees are free to wear “LGBTQ” and “African American Flag” versions of the company logo anytime they want. They also have asked employees to wear pink this month on Wednesdays to support “Breast Cancer Awareness”. They leave it up to the employees to wear it in support. But, they don’t mandate that everyone has to support it. No issues the past few years for the ones that choose to wear the attire/those that don’t. We ALL get along and there has never been harassment or negativity.

    Like I said if the company policy is no statements on the clock, then no statements on the clock. If they don’t have that as a rule, then they don’t. In general most business do not allow political/social statements on the clock. Most business are looking to limit liability and offending customers. Not celebrating something harms no one. Picking and choosing to celebrate particular things leads to non-celebrated things offended/left out. Its easiest and smartest to avoid all of it.

    Your analogy equates celebrating LGBTQ rights to trying to sell girl scout cookies to your co-workers. That speaks for itself regarding your view of how important (or trivial) the issue is.

    No. What he is saying is company policy is company policy. You may not like the policy but there can be consequences if the policy is violated.

    WTH? I’m heterosexual…… When do the major sports leagues have a “Celebrate Heterosexuality Day”? Come on…. this whole thing is just getting out of hand.

    My whole point was….. If the NHL players want to use “rainbow tape” then let them. But, don’t be angry at the players who don’t. The NHL has chosen the option to eliminate it altogether to keep the players that don’t participate from getting backlash.

    When do the major sports leagues have a “Celebrate Heterosexuality Day”?

    Actually, if you’ve ever looked at the Kiss Cam, then you know that EVERY day is “Celebrate Heterosexuality Day” at sporting events.

    Straight people should be grateful there was never a NEED for a “Celebrate Heterosexual Day “.

    I would have loved seeing the NHL strongly endorse pride-related efforts. Disappointing that they shifted into a role of indifference. But to take it a step farther by actually BANNING pride tape demonstrates how much farther this marginalized community has to go. The NHL will find themselves on the wrong side of history. I’m placing my order for two rolls and an Equality Cap.

    Funny, I didn’t see a lot of people coming to Colin Kaepernick’s defense when he respectfully opted out.

    I wish many more had! My point is that those who wanted to “fire” Kaepernick are probably the same people who want to make sure that the NHL players who opt out aren’t ridiculed. Hypocrisy.

    They also nixed ALL of the warm-up jerseys and regalia. Which I think is a step in the right direction. It was too focused on pageantry. Make and sell the jerseys for charity (which they’re still doing), but stop shoehorning every hollow PR stunt onto the players.

    Not sure what the NHL was thinking, but they couldn’t have picked a worse way to go about it.

    Either eliminate all stick tape that is not black or white, and all specialty warm-up jerseys or don’t. Make wearing specialty warm-up jerseys and any non-traditional tape optional for pre-game. After allowing and promoting Pride in previous seasons, a full reversal just for Pride events looks bad.

    Usually what is worn by players before a puck drops in a NHL game starts holds about as much interest to me as fan merchandise generally holds for Paul.

    The NHL is clueless about today’s society and its social developments. Or it is very much aware but is guessing where their core demographic group is standing on social issues and sides with it. Either way this will not improve the already clumsy, awkward and backward image of this league. The NBA, NFL and MLB just shake their heads: we might be far from being faultless, but this…

    NHL says wear the Pride jersey.
    A few players say no.

    NHL says no rainbow tape.
    A few players say no.

    If you vilify one group and laud the other, then the problem is not freedom of expression or civil rights, but lack of coercion to your way of thinking.

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