The National Hockey League (NHL) responded to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov’s refusal to wear a rainbow jersey Tuesday night, arguing that players on the circuit had the freedom to support his initiatives or not.
• Also read: Ivan Provorov refuses to wear a rainbow sweater
The 26-year-old was the only player not to wear the team’s special jersey during warm-up, preferring to stay in the locker room while the Flyers held their annual Pride night. His decision caused a lot of conversation on social media, with some even urging head coach John Tortorella to bench Provorov.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, the Russian explained that he made the gesture because of his belief in the Orthodox religion. On Wednesday, the NHL came to the hockey player’s defense.
“’Hockey Is For All’ is an umbrella initiative under which the league encourages teams to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets and works to create more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans. What, when and how to celebrate is decided by the teams in agreement and with the support of the league.
“Players are free to choose which initiatives they support and we continue to encourage them to share their opinions and views on social and cultural issues.”
A disrespectful gesture
In an interview on Sportsnet’s “Jeff Marek Show” on Wednesday, player agent Bayne Pettinger, who is openly gay, said Provorov’s rejection was disrespectful.
“We’re making progress with all of these initiatives and we’re starting to show some good signs of improvement in the game and then people are using their platform to attack this and say you’re not welcome here,” said the one who played in the game November 2020 revealed his sexual orientation.
In a press conference after the meeting, Provorov said he “respects everyone’s decisions” but prefers to remain true to his religious beliefs. Pettinger was particularly affected by this comment.
“It’s not a choice. Being gay wasn’t a free choice for me, it’s my birth and my identity. I have to live with that. An election is something where you have options, but I had to do this to ensure my happiness, success and continuity in hockey.
Forwards James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton have played prominent roles in Flyer’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights. They started a support program in Philadelphia and met with more than 50 people from the community before the meeting.
Laughton said he would try to raise the issue with Provorov but had no complaints.
“I don’t blame anyone. It’s none of that. It was a great night and I’m happy that we won this game,” he said Tuesday night, dodging the hot topic a bit.
“I respect everyone and I respect everyone’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”
Flyers defender Ivan Provorov on refusing to wear a rainbow jersey to warm up during “Pride Night” due to his Russian Orthodox faith.
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 18, 2023