NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a stupid and tone-deaf decision when he banned teams from wearing Pride-themed warm-up jerseys on nights next season to recognize LGBTQ fans. One of the league’s superstars criticized the decision this week.
“It’s not my call, but obviously it’s disappointing,” Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers said at the league’s awards ceremony in Nashville on Monday.
“I certainly can’t speak for every organization,” said McDavid. “I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride tape. We strongly feel hockey is for everybody, and that includes the Pride Nights.”
In announcing the ban, Bettman used the “distraction” fallback, a cheap way to justify many decision. “It’s become a distraction,” Bettman said. “And taking away from the fact that all of our clubs host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather they continue to get the appropriate attention they deserve and not be a distraction.”
All 32 NHL teams held Pride Nights this season, and there were a small handful of players who refused to wear rainbow warm-ups and a couple of teams who mismanaged the situation. But the vast majority of players had no problem wearing the warm-ups, so Bettman caved to the ultra-minority that bitched. That’s not leadership.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos made a similar point about the focus on the few over the many.
“It was 98% or 99% of other players that wore the jersey and enjoyed wearing it and were proud wearing it — whatever jersey it was — whether it was the Pride, the military night, the cancer nights,” said Stamkos. “The story shouldn’t be about the guy that didn’t wear it — the one guy or the two guys.
“I understand that’s what gets the clicks and that’s what gets the views, but the word ‘distraction’ gets thrown around. I don’t think it had to have been a distraction. It could have been a non-issue while focusing on the good that was coming out of those nights.”
Both McDavid and Stamkos are showing more common sense and leadership on this issue than Bettman. Let’s hope more players speak out.