Brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers declined to wear LGBTQ sweaters during pregame, and subsequently did not take part in warmups before the club’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs, per the Daily Mail.
The brothers collectively put together a statement that was released by the Florida Panthers, which said: “After many thoughts, prayers and discussions we have chosen not to wear a Pride Night jersey tonight.”
“We carry no judgement on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey. Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
“We hope you can respect this statement, we will not be speaking any further on this matter and would like to continue to focus on the game and helping the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup.”
The brothers were within their right not to wear the pride gear, but this did not stop some within the hockey community from getting upset at the brother's decision.
It is not as if the Staal brothers were campaigning for Pride Night to be eliminated altogether; they just wanted to exercise their right not to take part. However, their refusal to take part seems to have struck some as hatred of the LGBTQ community, which is the pinnacle of absurdity.
It appears to be lost on some that you can disagree with something without hating it. The Staal brothers have not condemned anyone for taking part in Pride Night. However, it is interesting that many hockey fans are incapable of reciprocating the sentiment. The bottom line is that players in the NHL have the freedom to wear pride gear if they so choose, just as they have the freedom to not wear it. It is illogical to reduce one's refusal to take part in Pride Night as hatred of people within that community.
However, this did not stop the Panthers organization from littering their Twitter feed with players dressed in Pride gear.
One cannot help but ruminate over the possibility that the NHL's Pride Night campaign is a political maneuver, one that has ripped through many organizations and corporations across the country.
Pride Night, in many ways, is a slick display of corporate exhibitionism that produces little in the way of pragmatically creating change within the communities they claim to support. But so long as teams manufacture multi-colored jerseys and stick tape, that makes up for it, right?
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice chimed in: “As an organization, we’ve decided, and rightfully so, to move forward with it and support it and celebrate it.”
“Teams around the league and players around the league, they’ve got the right to their opinion, and we’ve got the right to ours.”
However, there are those within the hockey community who do not appear to value Maurice’s words, charging the Staal brothers with using their religious convictions as a “cop out,” though there is no evidence to support this claim. If Maurice is correct in what he said, then it would stand to reason that the Staal brothers are entitled to their opinions without being demonized as hating the LGBTQ community.
As a number of teams have moved forward with their LGBTQ nights, there are many players who are pushing back against it. For example, the Chicago Blackhawks decided not to wear LGBTQ gear during “Pride Night” on Sunday.
As the NHL has many Russian-born players within its ranks, the organization has had to be careful with clamping down on those who forgo wearing pride gear, as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that puts even more restrictions on those seen promoting LGBTQ rights in the country, per the Daily Mail.
San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not take part in their team’s respective pride nights, appealing to their religious beliefs.
The Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, and the New York Rangers all opted out of sporting Pride gear during warmups.