Luke Prokop, the first active player under NHL contract to publicly come out as gay, offered his first statement about the league’s embarrassing spate of Pride Night jersey snubs.
It strikes the perfect tone.
On Monday night, Prokop shared his message on Twitter. He called the incidents “disappointing” and said it feels like the NHL is going backwards in terms of LGBTQ inclusion.
“Pride nights and pride jerseys play an important role in promoting and respecting inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community and it’s disheartening to see some teams no longer wearing them or embracing their significance, while the focus of others has become about the players who aren’t participating rather than the meaning of the night itself,” he wrote.
Prokop echoes the feelings of LGBTQ NHL fans across North America, some of whom are successfully creating their own inclusive spaces.
Last weekend, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer became the latest player to refuse to wear a Pride warmup jersey. Like many before him, Reimer used his religious beliefs as a shield for his homophobia.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman defended players who don’t wear Pride jerseys on Pride Night, saying we have to respect “individual choice.”
Prokop, who’s now playing with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, explained why that argument misses the point.
“Everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs and I think it’s important to recognize the difference between endorsing a community and respecting individuals within it,” he said. “Pride nights are an essential step towards fostering greater acceptance and understanding in hockey. ... As someone who aspires to play on an NHL team one day, I would want to enter the locker room knowing I can share all parts of my identity with my teammates.”
March 21, 2023
That’s exactly right. Wearing an LGBTQ Pride warmup jersey isn’t a gesture of activism. It just shows support to players like Prokop.
There’s a reason why the 20-year-old is still the only out hockey player under NHL contract.