Canadian hockey player and San Jose Sharks’ goaltender, James Reimer, made a controversial decision this weekend by opting out of pregame warmups because the team wore Pride-themed jerseys.
Reimer attributed his reluctance to his deep-seated Christian beliefs.
“In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” said Reimer in an official statement.
“I strongly believe every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
In a statement, the team said it respects Reimer’s decision.
“As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” said the San Jose sharks.
“As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”
Reimer’s decision sparked a fury of reactions online, with some accusing the Manitoba native of being a “homophobe,” while others came to the defence of the netminder.
Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke said he was “extremely disappointed” with Reimer.
“I wish players would understand that the Pride sweaters are about inclusion and welcoming everybody. A player wearing Pride colors or tape isn’t endorsing a set of values or enlisting in a cause! He is saying you are welcome here. And you are, in every single NHL building,” Burke wrote.
Meanwhile, a number of people took to Twitter to defend the former Toronto Maple Leafs player.
Sports journalist Jon Root said, “We know wholeheartedly Jesus wouldn’t wear a Pride jersey. That is what James is talking about. You can’t rewrite the Bible and make Jesus into your ‘tolerant ally’ of the LGBTQ community you desperately want Him to be.”
Reimer’s decision only comes months after Flyers player Ivan Provorov refused to do the same in January.
“I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say,” said Provorov.
At the time, sports pundits like Sid Seixeiro called for Provorov to be fined for the decision.
“I think you fine the Flyers a million dollars for this. I’m not kidding. Figure this out and stop offending people on nights when it’s not about that, it’s supposed to be about inclusivity,” said Seixeiro.
“The (NHL) need to attack this… Nothing scares me more than any human being that says ‘I’m not doing this because of my religious beliefs’ because when you look at people’s lives who say that publicly, you would throw up at what you saw.”