The New York Rangers responded Saturday to questions and online criticism about apparent changes to the team’s Pride Night celebrations during Friday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Rangers said in an email to fans earlier this month that the team would wear Pride-themed pre-match jerseys and use tape on their sticks “in solidarity with those who continue to stand up for inclusivity,” according to screenshots that posted online by fans. While other aspects of the Pride celebration were being planned, players wore regular jerseys during the warm-up and did not tape their sticks.
“Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring awareness to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night,” the Rangers said in a statement Saturday. “In line with the core values of our organization, we support the individual right of each individual to express their beliefs with respect.”
Rangers Pride Night came just over a week after the Philadelphia Flyers faced backlash at their Pride Night celebration when defense attorney Ivan Provorov did not participate in warm-up exercises, citing his religious beliefs as the reason he was not his Joined teammates wearing rainbow shirts as part of the annual Pride game at the Wells Fargo Center.
After the game, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked how Philadelphia was handling the situation.
“At the end of the day, I think everyone knows what the league stands for in terms of our values, what the Flyers stands for in terms of their values,” Bettman said last week. “Ultimately, individual players will make decisions and follow their beliefs. However, when we look at all of our players and the commitments they’ve made to social causes and made our game welcoming and inclusive, we focus on the 700 who are embracing it rather than one or two who may be struggling their own personal reasons.”
The change in Rangers’ plans also differed from the team’s Pride Night ceremonies in 2021 and 2022, when the team promoted the use of rainbow-colored tape on sticks and Pride jerseys. In previous years, the Rangers auctioned off autographed jerseys worn in warm-up exercises and sticks used for Pride Night celebrations, with proceeds benefiting Covenant House and Garden of Dreams to help young people in need.
Earlier this year, in an announcement, Rangers said the organization would be making a charitable contribution to the Ali Forney Center as part of Pride Night and in support of ongoing efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, as part of the celebration, fans were able to purchase Pride pucks and t-shirts from MSG and online, and the ‘food of the game’ from Big Gay Ice Cream.
MSG’s exterior was also illuminated with rainbow-colored lights on Friday, and the Rangers worked with members of the LGBTQ+ community to sing the national anthem, which was sung by Broadway star Michael James Scott, and the ceremonial puck drop by Andre Thomas, the Co-Chair of NYC Pride and Heir to the Pride. The community captain for the game was David Gilmartin, a Delta employee who promoted Delta’s participation as a sponsor of the Heritage of Pride parade.
Around the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes also held their Pride Night on Friday, which featured no Pride jerseys. However, a handful of players used it rainbow-colored tape on their sticks this was pictured on the Hurricanes’ social media.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty)