The New York Rangers held their seventh annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on Friday, but didn’t suit up in the ceremonial warmups prior to the game.
In a seemingly last minute decision, possibly related to trying to avoid a similar situation to the Philadelphia Flyers Pride Night disaster two weeks prior, Rangers players did not wear the rainbow themed jerseys or stick tape created custom for the event.
Otherwise, festivities went of as planned, with gay Broadway actor Michael James Scott singing the national anthem and NYC Pride’s Andre Thomas dropping the puck under Madison Square Garden’s rainbow colored ceiling lights.
The New York Post spoke with two unnamed players, who were unaware why the team didn’t wear the Pride warmup jerseys as planned.
The Rangers organization was less than forthcoming about the decision to ditch the duds.
“Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community, and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night,” they said in a statement.
“In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”
The Rangers’ response could point to one, or more players’ resistance to wearing the Pride colored jerseys, which may have been why they scrapped the idea.
The Philadelphia Flyers Pride event blew up in the organization’s face, when defenceman Ivan Provorov refused to wear the rainbow colors prior to a game against the Anaheim Ducks, due to his Russian Orthodox religion.
“I respect everybody and I respect everybody’s choices,” he remarked after the game.
“My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Flyers coach John Tortorella defended his player and the decision to let him play, despite opting out of the pre-game festivities.
“With Provy, he is being true to himself and to his religion. This has to do with his beliefs and his religion,” he commented.
“That is one thing I respect about Provy, he is always true to himself, so that’s where we’re at with that.”
Tortorella said it would have been “unfair” to bench the 26-year-old player for his religious beliefs.
Provy was torched by the media and the woke social media mob for his refusal to participate in the event.
“Being LGBT+ is not a “choice.” Being ignorant, obnoxious, and homophobic is a choice,” tweeted NHL writer Rachael Millanta.
“Ivan Provorov wasn’t wearing uniform tonight and the @NHLFlyers should not have let him play. Stop letting bigots hide behind their cherry-picked religion. Do better.”
But according to multiple media outlets, his jerseys have sold out across the nation.
NYC Pride was baffled by the Rangers’ move on Friday night, as they were not told about the change prior to participating in the game.
“NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised,” the organization announced.
“We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.”
While NYC Pride said they’re “committed” to continuing their relationship with the NHL, critics torched the Rangers.
“To give the OK to these hockey players to be homophobic is not celebrating pride. It’s the opposite of it,” said LGBT Network president David Kilmnick.
“It’s a slap in the face to the LGBT community to have players not celebrate Pride Night,” he continued.
“To me, this would be equivalent to people not wearing Jackie Robinson’s number when everyone does that in MLB [on Jackie Robinson Day].”
“The fact the New York Rangers completely abandoned their plans to wear pre-game Pride jerseys shows how entrenched homophobia and transphobia is in hockey, and the NHL’s complicity to exclusion,” added a hockey news writer.
“Sorry, Rangers, but the way you become, and remain, an ally to a repressed community is not by shrinking in the face of bigotry. It’s by digging in and standing up when it counts,” another person chided.
While others supported the organization’s decision to skip out on the ceremonial jerseys.
“Honestly, good for them. This should be the beginning of the end of Pride Nights,” someone wrote. “They’re not about solidarity or equality anymore.”
“It’s no more important to me as a gay man that hockey players wear Pride™ jerseys at a game than it is for gay people to wear New York Rangers jerseys at a gay pride rally,” added a gay NHL fan.
“The idea that it somehow exposes “entrenched homophobia” is performative victimization.”
Some believe that it the jerseys were discarded to avoid another Provorov-like situation.
“My guess is the Rangers iced the plan to wear the warmup jersey when one or more players pulled a Provorov and team didn’t want the player(s) getting lit up in media,” one person speculated.
“Why are people freaking out about the Rangers not wearing pride jerseys,” another questioned.
“It’s not like 15 wore it and 4 didn’t. They all didn’t wear it and weren’t even issued one. I think the NHL isn’t giving them to teams given what happened with Provorov. It’s not a big deal, get over it.”