That’s how NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman described the league’s new policy that will not allow teams to wear speciality jerseys, including LGBTQ Pride jerseys, during warmups next season.
Following today’s NHL Board of Governors meeting, Bettman told Elliotte Friedman that the jerseys had become a “distraction” and that going forward, it would not be appropriate for teams to wear cause-based uniforms during warmups.
“I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction.”
The distraction that he’s referring to is obviously the controversy that surround the teams and players that chose to opt out of wearing special Pride Night jerseys this year. Several Russian players chose not to wear the jerseys, including Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who cited his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs.
The San Jose Sharks’ James Reimer also opted out of wearing the Pride Night warmup, as did brothers Eric and Mark Staal, who both play for the Florida Panthers and stated that:
“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.”
Several teams also canceled plans to have players wear special Pride Night jerseys, including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, with the Blackhawks citing safety concerns for their Russian players when they return to their home country.
The decision by players and teams not to wear the Pride Night jerseys drew controversy (though a lot of it was driven by the media and not actual hockey fans) from those who worried about the message that it would send to LGBTQ hockey fans – something that Bettman says is a legitimate concern – but that the outrage ends up overshadowing the meaning of the events:
“I agree those are legitimate concerns, but in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction of which teams, which players, this way we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights we’re going to be focussed on the cause.”
But Bettman said the decision to prohibit the warmup jerseys wouldn’t keep teams from hosting Pride Night events, or any other cause-based theme night, and that the jerseys would still be available for fans to buy:
“All of those nights will continue. The only difference will be we’re not going to change jerseys for warmup because that’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are.”
JUST IN – NHL players will not wear Pride jerseys during warm-ups anymore