NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said over the weekend the onus falls on LGBTQ hockey fans to respect players who don’t want to wear rainbow-themed warmup jerseys during Pride Nights.
It’s a weak argument that doesn’t fly. Imagine if a white player refused to wear a patch or insignia that celebrates Black History Month.
Do you think Bettman would be talking about the need to respect individual choice in that scenario?
No chance. The same logic should apply to supporting LGBTQ rights; but for some reason, it doesn’t.
Bettman was asked about the league’s recent Pride Night debacles at NHL All-Star Weekend. Last month, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to wear a gay pride warmup jersey before the team’s Pride Night affair, and the New York Rangers abandoned their rainbow warmup jerseys as well.
In the aftermath of each incident, both clubs issued vapid statements about how they support LGBTQ inclusion, while affirming their players’ homophobia.
That’s called trying to have it both ways. Bettman followed suit.
“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,” he said, via The Athletic. “But we also have to respect individual choice. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences.”
What an insulting statement. Bettman implies the responsibility falls with the marginalized group to accept players who demonstrate an aversion to promoting inclusion.
The NHL, and male pro sports in general, have always been welcoming to people like Provorov and the Rangers players who presumably rejected their Pride Night warmup uniforms. Straight white men don’t face discrimination at the rink. Gay people do.
So no, LGBTQ hockey fans shouldn’t just have to suck it up when players on their favorite teams show hostility towards their community. Nobody is demanding that players become LGBTQ activists and march the streets in protest.
We’re just asking that when teams host Pride Nights — events that are supposed to promote LGBTQ inclusion in sports — players don’t insult the cause.
That shouldn't’ be hard, right?
Sadly, Bettman is choosing capitulation over standing up for the league’s supposed values.