NHL must decide if hockey really is for everyone

The NHL needs to reimagine its league-wide Pride Nights amidst controversy surrounding the wearing of special edition warmup jerseys. The New York Rangers became the latest team to come under fire after changing plans and opting against wearing Pride Night-themed warmup jerseys before last week's game against the Vegas Golden Knights, two weeks after Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov refused to wear a similar jersey.

Video Transcript

OMAR: We're talking about Pride Night for the wrong reasons.


OMAR: Because instead of focusing on the importance of it, we're just talking about teams, oh, will they or won't they?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: So, for context, the New York Rangers supposedly advertised a Pride Night going on in the last week, but it seems--

SAM CHANG: And sold tickets on that basis.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: They did. And the players did not wear any jerseys or any Pride tape or anything like that. It's a bit disappointing, but also, very notable in light of how the Philadelphia Flyers handled everything with regards to Pride Night. I'm not going to act here and say, is this a situation where players voluntarily opted out, but it's very fishy.

Why would the organization go about this way when they were people who were led to believe that the players would be wearing Pride Night jerseys or at least doing what is custom of a Pride Night? And now we are about a little over a month away from the Dallas Stars having their own Pride Night. They tweet about this, again, minutes before we started recording. And, well, because of the fact that it's become a story, it's now going to become a whole thing where it's like, well, what are the Dallas Stars going to do?

Who's going to wear Pride jersey? Who's going to wear Pride tape? It completely takes away from the focus of these nights, which is for an organization to acknowledge a disenfranchised community, to show support for those people, and it's just a jersey.

And I get that some people say, well, it's pretty performative and I was having a conversation on another podcast where the other point was made that like, oh, well maybe you should see who isn't wearing these jerseys so you can tell who the real ones are from the not so real ones. But also at the same time, I don't want to see that headache for people. And I also just think it's not a big deal, to put on a jersey.

I don't think it's that big of a deal to just show a little bit of support for the LGBTQ community. I don't think it's that big of a deal. But some people feel it is. I don't know.

SAM CHANG: I think it's just like a really artificial argument that people are now using where they're like, well, if they wear the jersey it's against their religious beliefs because, XYZ and blah, blah, blah. But the point of wearing the Pride jersey and Pride Nights really doesn't go that far. To the extent that it's performative, yes, we can say it's performative, whatever. But it's literally a base level, bare minimum of showing respect for people's existence, right?

No one saying you need to like take the extra step of being like, I fully support your lifestyle of everything you do, which frankly you should. It's none of you business. and it doesn't impact you. But if you can't even just say, I can appreciate the historical context where this community has been disenfranchised, not just disenfranchised but I would argue persecuted, and are continuously now having their rights stripped away. It's a pretty scary time.

You can't show the bare level of human decency to be like, I respect your existence, I respect your right to live, and to being on this planet? I appreciate you as a fan. You are welcome in our community. That is literally all you're saying. And if you think your religion goes so far as to say that you cannot extend that to someone, I think you have probably missed the fundamental tenet of most religions.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Sam explained that way better than I ever could.

OMAR: And the thing is-- Oh, sorry. No, Avry, you go.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: I was going to say, and this can be a slippery slope now where if teams and players don't partake in this, what else they partake in? Will either climb to where jersey honoring Black History Month or Asian Heritage? Where is the line going to draw? Where are players going to go, oh, I don't have to wear a pride jersey? OK, I'll opt out of wearing other jerseys that honor other communities in our world, which is a very dangerous slope to go down.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think the best way for, and maybe it's not the right way to go about it, but the way that we look at these nights and causes has to change, ultimately. Instead of it being a whole thing where everyone does it and we focus on everybody going through the gestures, we make it something like what the NFL has with My Cause, My Cleats, where maybe one or two players, they do something funny with their cleats and we focus on them for like a couple of seconds and that's it. I don't know if that's the right way to go about it but, if we're going to go down a route where some people are like, well you know what?

Maybe we shouldn't have everybody wearing jerseys so that we could see the real allies from the not real allies or for whatever reason, that's the best way I think to go about it. But just the idea that we have to start looking at these things and look at our warm that intensely. I don't even look at warm ups that intensely for regular games. I don't care to look at warm ups to see who's wearing-- I shouldn't have to care for who's wearing a certain type of jersey during a warm up. It should not be this way. But more importantly--

SAM CHANG: I think--


SAM CHANG: --problem with this entire situation has been the League's response.



SAM CHANG: It's been super harmful. They have taken the classic fence-sitting position, while everyone should be able to express their opinions without-- I mean, sorry, I'm going to say without taking it to regard. And maybe they did take it to rregard and decided they don't care that, that creates the situation where it's like you're now saying that people who are blatantly homophobic, transphobic, and want to take people's rights and ability to exist away should also be heard. It's such a bad position to take and it makes it so clear how much hockey is for everyone has been an absolute grift. They don't stand for anything.

OMAR: Nope.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: No. And I said before last week, every other pro sports using this content, every other Major League, from the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, have taken stands on these issue. And the NHL continues to refuse to take a stand and keep this energy of, we don't want to offend anybody. Sorry, you can't always be on the fence of trying to please every single person. You can't.