The NHL has banned a basic act of solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities, prohibiting teams from using Pride Tape for the 2023-24 season, as first reported by Outsports.
ESPN’s Ryan S. Clark previously reported on Oct. 5 that the NHL sent a memo to all 32 teams clarifying which "special initiatives" they could participate in with Pride Nights falling under this umbrella. The league stated that teams could celebrate whichever initiatives they’d like, as long as it adhered to the dress code.
After seven players opted out of Pride Night initiatives last season, the NHL elected not to wear Pride-centered practice jerseys for the 2023-24 season, with Gary Bettman calling the jerseys “a distraction” from the special interest nights. Other special interest nights such as Military Appreciation Night remain an active part of the league’s calendar.
The makers of pride tape also issued a statement following news of the decision.
"The league has used language in recent days which would prohibit the tape from any proximity to NHL Hockey," it reads in part. "We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia. Many of the players themselves have been exceptional advocates for the tape."
Statement from the makers of Pride Tape on the NHL banning players from using it this season, as part of the league's overall ban on "specialty" jerseys. pic.twitter.com/DpOni21oYn
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 10, 2023
Pride Tape has partnered with the NHL and NHLPA in an effort to eradicate homophobia under the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone banner — a program that has proven to be widely performative under the supervision of NHL executive vice-president Kim Davis. Using Pride Tape is a small but important act of solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities, allowing NHL players to show their support in a visible way on the ice.
Despite its proclamations, the NHL has repeatedly struggled to back up its words with actions in serving as an ally to queer and trans communities, with this latest effort the most troubling policy the league has installed over the past decade.
There has been a clear reversal in the league office’s thinking from 2019 onwards, ranging from a series of well-intentioned but fruitless initiatives like Hockey Is For Everyone and Pride Tape — a small gesture of solidarity — to outright condemnation and separation from gay, queer and trans communities over the past year under Bettman and Davis’ leadership.